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Waynflcte Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy 
in the University of Oxford 


Hutchirfton House, London, W.i 
New Yo i 'k Melbourne Sydney Cape Town 

First Published - October, 7949 

Reprinted - - January, 7950 

Reprinted - - Alaich, 1950 

Reprinted - - Apiil, 195 / 

Punted ni Great Britain by 

William Brcndon and Son^ Ltd. 

The Maijfloiccr Press (late of Plymouth) 

at Butihcy Mill Lane 

Watford, Herts. 



Chapter page 


i) The Official Doctrine n 

2\ The Absurdity of the Official Doctrine 15 

3) The Origin of the Category Mistake 18 

(4) Historical Note 23 


v (i) Foreword 25 

* (2) Intelligence and Intellect 25 

J($) Knowing How and Knowing That 27 

(4) The Motives of the Intellectualist Legend 32 

(5) 'In My Head* 35 

(6) The Positive Account of Knowing How 40 

(7) Intelligent Capacities versus Habits 42 

(8) The Exercise of Intelligence 45 

(9) Understanding and Misunderstanding 51 
(10) Solipsism 60 


(1) Foreword 62 

(2) The Myth of Volitions 62 
3) The Distinction Between Voluntary and Involuntary 69 
'4) Freedom of the Will 75 

(5) The Bogy of Mechanism 76 


(i) Foreword 83 

2) Feelings versus Inclinations 83 

3) Inclinations versus Agitations 93 

(4) Moods 9# 

(5) Agitations and Feelings 104 

(6) Enjoying and Wanting 107 

(7) The Criteria of Motives no 

(8) The Reasons and the Causes of Actions 113 

(9) Conclusion 114 



(1) Foreword 116 

(2) The Logic of Dispositional Statements 117 

(3) Mental Capacities and Tendencies 125 

(4) Mental Occurrences 135 

(5) Achievements 149 


(1) Foreword 154 

(2) Consciousness 156 

(3) Introspection 163 

(4) Self-Knowledge Without Privileged Access 167 

(5) Disclosure by Unstudied Talk t8r 

(6) The Self ' 186 

(7) The Systematic Elusiveness of T 195 


(1) Foreword 199 

(2) Sensations 201 

(3) The Sense Datum Theory 210 

(4) Sensation and Observation 222 

(5) Phenomenalism 234 

(6) Afterthoughts 239 


(1) Foreword 245 

(2) Picturing and Seeing 246 

(3) The Theory of Special Status Pictures 248 

(4) Imagining 256 

(5) Pretending 258 

(6) Pretending, Fancying and Imagining 264 

(7) Memory 272 


(1) Foreword 280 

(2) The Demarcation of the Intellect 280 

(3) The Construction, Possession and Utilisation of Theories 286 

(4) The Application and Misapplication of Epistemological Terms 292 

(5) Saying and Teaching 309 

(6) The Primacy of the Intellect 314 

(7) Epistemology 317 


(1) The Programme of Psychology 319 

(2) Behaviourism 327 


Tins book offers what may with reservations be described as a 
theory of the mind. But it does not give new information about 
minds. We possess already a wealth of information about minds, 
information which is neither derived from, nor upset by, the argu- 
ments of philosophers. The philosophical arguments which 
constitute this book are intended not to increase what we know 
about minds, but to rectify the logical geography of the knowledge 
which we already possess. 

Teachers and examiners, magistrates and critics, historians and 
novelists, confessors and non-commissioned officers, employers, 
employees and partners, parents, lovers, friends and enemies all 
know well enough how to settle their daily questions about the 
qualities of character and intellect of the individual with whom they 
have to do. They can appraise his performances, assess his progress, 
understand his words and actions, discern his motives and see his 
jokes. If they go wrong, they know how to correct their mistakes. 
More, they can deliberately influence the minds of those with whom 
they deal by criticism, example, teaching, punishment, bribery, 
mockery and persuasion, and then modify their treatments in the 
light of the results produced. 

Both in describing the minds of others and in prescribing for 
them, they arc wielding with greater or less efficiency concepts of 
mental powers and operations. They have learned how to apply in 
concrete, situations such mental-conduct epithets as 'careful', 
'stupid', 'logical', 'unobservant', 'ingenious', Vain', 'methodical', 
'credulous', 'witty', 'self-controlled' and a thousand others. 

It is, however, one thing to know how to apply such concepts, 
quite another to know how to correlate them with one another 
and with concepts of other sorts. Many people can talk sense with 
concepts but cannot talk sense about them; they know by practice 
how to operate with concepts, anyhow inside familiar fields, but 
they cannot state the logical regulations governing their use. They 


are like people who know their way about their own parish, but 
cannot construct or read a map of it, much less a map of the region 
or continent in which their parish lies. 

For certain purposes it is necessary to determine the logical 
cross-bearings of the concepts which we know quite well how to 
apply. The attempt to perform this operation upon the concepts 
of the powers, operations and states of minds has always teen a big 
part of the task of philosophers. Theories of knowledge, logic, 
ethics, political theory and aesthetics are the products of their 
inquiries in this field. Some of these inquiries have made con- 
siderable regional progress, but it is part of the thesis of this book 
that during the three centuries of the epoch of natural science the 
logical categories in terms of which the concepts of mental powers 
and operations have been co-ordinated have been wrongly selected. 
Descartes left as one of his main philosophical legacies a myth 
which continues to distort the continental geography of the subject. 

A myth is, of course, not a fairy story. It is the presentation of 
facts belonging to one category in the idioms appropriate to another. 
To explode a myth is accordingly not to deny the facts but to 
re-allocate them. And this is what I am trying to do. 

To determine the logical geography of concepts is to reveal the 
logic of the propositions in which they are wielded, that is to say, 
to show with what other propositions they are consistent and 
inconsistent, what propositions follow from them and from what 
propositions they follow. The logical type or category to which a 
concept belongs is the set of ways in which it is logically legitimate 
to operate with it. The key arguments employed in this book are 
therefore intended to show why certain sorts of operations with the 
concepts of mental powers and processes are breaches of logical 
rules. I try to use reductio ad absurdum arguments both to disallow 
operations implicitly recommended by the Cartesian mytja and to 
indicate to what logical types the concepts under investigation 
ought to be allocated. I do not, however, think it improper to use 
from time to time arguments of a less rigorous sort, especially when 
it seems expedient to mollify or acclimatise. Philosophy is the 
replacement of category-habits by category-disciplines, and if 
persuasions of conciliatory kinds ease the pains of relinquishing 
inveterate intellectual habits, they d<$ not indeed reinforce the 
rigorous arguments, but they do weaken resistances to them. 


Some readers may think that my tone of voice in this book is 
excessively polemical. It may comfort them to know that the 
assumptions against which I exhibit most heat are assumptions of 
which I myself have been a victim. Primarily I am trying to get 
some disorders out of my own system. Only secondarily do I hope 
to help other theorists to recognise our malady and to benefit 
from my medicine. 



(i) The Official Doctrine. 

THERE is a doctrine about the nature and place of minds which is 
so prevalent among theorists and even among laymen that it 
deserves to be described as the official theory. Most philosophers, 
psychologists and religious teachers subscribe, with minor reserva- 
tions, to its main articles and, although they admit certain theoretical 
difficulties in it, they tend to assume that these can be overcome 
without serious modifications being made to the architecture of the 
theory. It will be argued here that the central principles of the 
doctrine are unsound and conflict with the whole body of what we 
know about minds when we are not speculating about them. 

The official doctrine, which hails chiefly from Descartes, is 
something like this. With the doubtful exceptions of idiots and 
infants in arms every human being has both a body and a mind. 
Some would prefer to say that every human being is both a body 
and a mind. His body and his mind are ordinarily harnessed together, 
but after the death of the body his mind may continue to exist and 

Human bodies are in space and are subject to the mechanical 
laws whicfh govern all other bodies in space. Bodily processes and 
states can be inspected by external observers. So a man's bodily 
life is as mtich a publicTaffair as are the lives of animals and reptiles 
and even as the careers of trees, crystals and planets. 

But minds are not in space, nor are their operations subject to 
mechanical laws. The workings of one mind are not witnessable by 
other observers ; its career is private. Only I can take direct cognisance 
of the states and processes of my own mind. A person therefore 
lives through two collateral* histories, one consisting of what 
happens in and to his bodyTthe other consisting of what happens in 
and to his mind. The first is public, the second private. The events 



in the first history are events in the physical world, those in the 
second are events in the mental world. 

It has been disputed whether a person does or can directly 
monitor all or only some of the episodes of his own private history; 
but, according to the official doctrine, of at least some of these 
episodes he has direct and unchallengeable cognisance. In con- 
sciousness, self-consciousness and introspection he is directly and 
authentically apprised of the present states and operations of his 
mind. He may have great or small uncertainties about concurrent 
and adjacent episodes in the physical world, but he can have 
none about at least part of what Js- momentarily occupying his 

It is customary to express this bifurcation of his two lives and 
of his two worlds by saying that the things and events which belong 
to the physical world, including his own body, are external, while 
the workings of his own mind are internal. This antithesis of outer 
and inner is of course meant to be construed as a metaphor, since 
minds, not being in space, could not be described as being spatially 
inside anything else, or as having things going on spatially inside 
themselves. But relapses from this good intention are common and 
theorists are found speculating how stimuli, the physical sources of 
which are yards or miles outside a person's skin, can generate mental 
responses inside his skull, or how decisions framed inside his 
cranium can set going movements of his extremities. 

^ Even when 'inner' and 'outer* are construed as metaphors, the 
problem how a person's mind and body influence one another is 
notoriously charged with theoretical difficulties. What the mind 
wills, die legs, arms and the tongue execute] what affects the ear and 
the eye has something to do with what the mind perceives; 
grimaces and smiles betray the mind's moods and bodily castigations 
lead, it is hoped, to moral improvement. But the actual transactions 
between the episodes of the private history ancTthose of the public 
history remain mysterious, since by definition they can belong to 
neither series. They could not be reported among the happenings 
described in a person's autobiography of his inner life, but nor 
could they be reported among those described in some one else's 
biography of that person's overt career. They can be inspected 
neither by introspection nor by laboratory experiment. They are 
theoretical shuttlecocks which are forever being bandied from the 


physiologist back to the psychologist and from the psychologist 
back to the physiologist. 

Underlying this partly metaphorical representation of the 
bifurcation of a person's two lives there is a seemingly more profound 
and philosophical assumption. It is assumed that there are two 
different kinds of existence or status. What exists or happens may 
have the status of physical existence, or it may have the status of 
mental existence. Somewhat as the faces of coins are either heads 
or tails, or somewhat as living creatures are either male or female, 
so, it is supposed, some existing is physical existing, other existing 
is mental existing. It is a necessary feature of what has physical 
existence that it is in space and time; it is a necessary feature of what 
has mental existence that it is in time but not in space. What has 
physical existence is composed of matter, or else is a function of 
matter; what has mental existence consists of consciousness, or else 
is a function of consciousness. 

There is thus a polar opposition between mind and matter, an 
opposition which is often brought out as follows. Material objects 
are situated in a common field, known as 'space', and what happens 
to one body in one part of space is mechanically connected with 
what happens to other bodies in other parts of space. But mental 
happenings occur in insulated fields, known as 'minds', and there is, 
apart maybe from telepathy, no direct causal connection between 
what happens in one mind and what happens in another. Only 
through the medium of the public physical world can the mind of 
one person make a difference to the mind of another. The mind is 
its own place and in his inner life each of us lives the life of a ghostly 
Robinson ^Crusoe^ People can seeTTKatT^an?' jolt one another's 
Bodies, but they are irremediably blind and deaf to the workings 
of one another's minds and inoperative upon them. 

What sort of knowledge can be secured of the workings of a 
mind? On the one side, according to the official theory, a person 
has direct knowledge of the best imaginable kind of the workings 
of his own mind. Mental states and processes are (or are normally) 
conscious stateifahd processes, and the consciousness which irradiates 
thenrtanT engender ncT illusions and leaves the door open for no 
doubts. A person's present tjiinkings, feelings and willings, his 
perceivings, rememberings and imaginings are intrinsically 'phos- 
phorescent'; their existence and their nature are inevitably betrayed 


Machine 5 . I hope to prove that it is entirely false, and false not in 
detail but in principle. It is not merely an assemblage of particular 
mistakes. It is one big mistake and a mistake of a special kind. It is, 
namely, a category-mistake. It represents the facts of mental life 
as if they belonged to one logical type or category (or range of 
types or categories), when they actually belong to another r)The 
dogma is therefore a philosopher's myth. In attempting to-explode 
the myth I shall probably be taken to be denying well-known facts 
about the mental life of human beings, and my plea that I aim at 
doing nothing more than rectify the logic of mental-conduct 
concepts will probably be disallowed as mere subterfuge. 

I must first indicate what is meant by the phrase 'Category- 
mistake'. This I do in a series of illustrations. 

A foreigner visiting Oxford or Cambridge for the first time is 
shown a number of colleges, libraries, playing fields, museums, 
scientific departments and administrative offices. He then asks 'But 
where is the University? I have seen where the members of the 
Colleges live, where the Registrar works, where the scientists 
experiment and the rest. But I have not yet seen the University in 
which reside and work the members of your University.' It has 
then to be explained to him that the University is not another 
collateral institution, some ulterior counterpart to the colleges, 
laboratories and offices which he has seen. The University is just 
the way in which all that he has already seen is organized. When 
they are seen and when their co-ordination is understood, the 
University has been seen. His mistake lay in his innocent assumption 
that it was correct to speak of Christ Church, the Bodleian Library, 
the Ashmolean Museum and the University, to speak, that is, as if 
'the University' stood for an extra member of the class of which 
these other units are members, (tie was mistakenly allocating the 
University to the same category as that to which 4 the other 
institutions belong. 

-The same mistake would be made by a child witnessing the 
march-past of a division, who, having had pointed out to him such 
and such battalions, batteries, squadrons, etc., asked when the 
division was going to appear. He would be supposing that a division 
was a counterpart to the units alrea4y seen, partly similar to them 
and partly unlike them. He would be shown his mistake by being 
told that in watching the battalions, batteries and squadrons 


marching past he had been watching the division marching past. 
The march-past was not a parade of battalions, batteries, squadrons 
and a division; it was a parade of the battalions, batteries and 
squadrons o/a division. 

One more illustration. A foreigner watching his first game of 
cricket learns what are the functions of the bowlers, the batsmen, 
the fielders, the umpires and the scorers. He then says 'But there is 
no one left on the field to contribute the famous element of team- 
spirit. I see who does the bowling, the batting and the wicket- 
keeping; but I do not see whose role it is to exercise esprit de corps. 9 
Once more, it would have to be explained that he was looking for 
the wrong type of thing. Team-spirit is not another cricketing- 
operation supplementary to all of the other special tasks. It is, 
roughly, the keenness with which each of the special tasks is 
performed, and performing a task keenly is not performing two 
tasks. Certainly exhibiting team-spirit is not the same thing as 
bowling or catching, but nor is it a third thing such that we can 
say that the bowler first bowls and then exhibits team-spirit or 
that a fielder is at a given moment either catching or displaying 
esprit de corps. 

These illustrations of category-mistakes have a common feature 
which must be noticed. The mistakes were made by people who 
did not know how to wield the concepts University, division and 
team-spirit. Their puzzles arose from inability to use certain items 
in the English vocabulary. 

The theoretically interesting category-mistakes are those made 
by people who are perfectly competent to apply concepts, at least 
in the situations with which they are familiar, but are still liable in 
their abstract thinking to allocate those concepts to logical types 
to which they do not belong) An instance of a mistake of this sort 
would be*the following story. A student of politics has learned 
the main differences between the British, the French and the 
American Constitutions, and has learned also the differences 
and connections between the Cabinet, Parliament, the various 
Ministries, the Judicature and the Church of England. But he 
still becomes embarrassed when asked questions about the con- 
nections between the Churcjj of England, the Home Office and 
the British Constitution. For while the Church and the Home 
Office are institutions, the British Constitution is not another 


institution in the same sense of that noun. So inter-institutional 
relations which can be asserted or denied to hold between the 
Church and the Home Office cannot be asserted or denied to hold 
between either of them and the British Constitution. 'The British 
Constitution' is not a term of the same logical type as 'the 
Home Office and 'the Church of England'. In a partially similar 
way, John Doe may be a relative, a friend, an enemy or a stranger 
to Richard Roe; but he cannot be any of these things to the Average 
^axpayer. He knows how to talk sense in certain sorts of dis- 
cussions about the Average Taxpayer, but he is baffled to say why 
ne could not come across him in the street as he can come across 
Richard Roe. 

It is pertinent to our main subject to notice that, so long as the 
student of politics continues to think of the British Constitution as a 
counterpart to the other institutions, Jie will tend to describe it as a 
mysteriously occult institution; and (so long as John Doe continues 
to tliink of the Average Taxpayer as IT Fellow-citizen, he will tend 
to think of him as an elusive insubstantial man, a ghost who is 
everywhere yet nowhere. *\ ^ s' 

My destructive purpose is to show that a family of radical 
category-mistakes is the source of the double-life theory. The 
representation of a person as a ghost mysteriously ensconced in a 
machine derives from this argument. Because, as is true, a person's 
thinking, feeling and purposive doing cannot be described 
solely in the idioms of physics, chemistry and physiology, therefore 
they must be described in counterpart idioms. As the human body is 
a complex organised unit, so the human mind must be another 
complex organised unit, though one made of a different sort of 
stuff and with a different sort of structure. Or, again, as the human 
body, like any other parcel of matter, is a field of causes and 
effects, so the mind must be another field of causes and effects, 
though not (Heaven be praised) mechanical causes and effects. 

(3) The Origin of the Category-mistake. 

One of the chief intellectual origins of what I have yet to prove 
to be the Cartesian category-mistake seems to be this. When 
Galileo showed that his methods of scientific discovery were 
competent to provide a mechanical theory which should cover every 
occupant of space, Descartes found in himself two conflicting 


motives. As a man of scientific genius he could not but endorse the 
claims of mechanics, yet as a religious and moral man he could not 
accept, as Hobbes accepted, the discouraging rider to those claims, 
namely that human nature differs only in degree of complexity from 
clockwork. Thgjnental could not be just a variety of the mechanical. 

He and subsequent philosophers naturally but erroneolusly 
availed themselves of the following escape-route. Since mental- 
conduct words are not to be construed as signifying the occurrence 
of mechanical processes, they must be construed as signifying the 
occurrence of non-mechanical processes; since mechanical laws 
explain movements in space as the effects of other movements in 
space, other laws must explain some of the non-spatial workings 
of minds as the effects of other non-spatial workings of minds. The 
difference between the human behaviours which we describe as 
intelligent and those which we describe as unintelligent must be a 
difference in their causation; so, while some movements of human 
tongues and limbs are the effects of mechanical causes, others must 
be the effects of non-mechanical causes, i.e. some issue from move- 
ments of particles of matter, others from workings of the mind. 

The differences between the physical and the mental were thus 
represented as differences inside the common framework of the 
categories of 'thing', 'stuff', 'attribute', 'state', 'process', 'change', 
'cause' and 'effect*. Minds are things, but different sorts of things from 
bodies; mental processes are causes and effects, but different sorts of 
causes and effects from bodily movements. And so on. Somewhat as 
the foreigner expected the University to be an extra edifice, rather 
like a college but also considerably different, so the repudiators of 
mechanism represented minds as extra centres of causal processes, 
rather like machines but also considerably different from them. 
Their theory was a para-mechanical hypothesis. 

That this assumption was at the heart of the doctrine is shown 
by the fact that there was from the beginning felt to l>ej^major 
theoretical difficulty in explaining how minds can influence ana te 
influenced by bodies. How can a mental process, such as willing, cause 
spatial movements likejhejnovenients of the tongue? How can a 
physical change in tEe^optic nerve have among its effects a mind's 
perception of a flash of lightj This notorious crux by itself shows 
the logical mould into which Descartes pressed his theory of 
the mind. It was the self-same mould into which he and Galileo 


set their mechanics. Still unwittingly adhering to the grammar 
of mechanics, he tried to avert disaster by describing minds in what 
was merely an obverse vocabulary. ^he workings of minds had to be 
described by the mere negatives oFffer specific descriptions given 
to bodies; they are not in space, they are not motions, they are not 
modifications of matter, they are not accessible to public observation.^) 
Minds are not bits of clockwork, they are just bits of not- 

As thus represented, minds are not merely ghosts harnessed to 
machines, they are themselves just spectral machines. Though 
the human body is an engine, it it not quite an ordinary engine, 
since some of its workings are governed by another engine inside 
it this interior governor-engine being one of a very special 
sort. It is invisible, inaudible and it has no size or weight/ It 
cannot be taken to bits and the laws it obeys are not those known to 
ordinary engineers^ Nothing is known of how it governs the bodily 

A second major crux points the same moral. Since, according 
to the doctrine, minds belong to the same category as bodies and 
since bodies are rigidly governed by mechanical laws, it seemed to 
many theorists to follow that jninds must be similarly governed by 
rigid non-mechanical laws/ The physical world is a deterministic 
system, so the mental world must be a deterministic systeifcLBodies 
cannot help the modifications that they undergo, so mirros cannot 
help pursuing the careers fixed for them. Responsibility, choice, merit 
and demerit are therefore inapplicable concepts unless the com- 
promise solution is adopted of saying that the laws governing 
mental processes, unlike those governing physical processes, have 
the congenial attribute of being only rather rigid. The problem 
of the Freedom of the Will was the problem how to reconcile the 
hypothesis that minds are to be described in terms drawrffrom the 
categories of mechanics with the knowledge that higher-grade 
human conduct is not of a piece with the behaviour of machines. 

It is an historical curiosity that it was not noticed that the entire 
argument was broken-backed. Theorists correctly assumed that any 
sane man could already recognise the differences between, say, 
rational and non-rational utterances or between purposive and 
automatic behaviour. Else there would have been nothing requiring 
to be salved from mechanism. Yet the explanation given presupposed 


that one person could in principle never recognise the difference 
between the rational and the irrational utterances issuing from other 
human bodies, since he could never get access to the postulated 
ynmaterial causes of some of their utterances. Save for the doubtful 
exception of himself, he could never tell the difference between a 
man and a Robot. It woyld have to be conceded, for example, that, 
for' all that we can teU,(the inner lives of persons who are classed as 
idiots or lunatics are as ratioiM'as those of anyone else. Perhaps 
only their overt behaviour is disappointing; that is to say, perhaps 
Idiots' are not really idiotic, or lunatics' lunatic. Perhaps, too, 
some of those who are classed as sane are really idiots. According 
to the theory, external observers could never know How the overt 
behaviour of others is correlated with their mental powers and 
processes and so they could never know or even plausibly con- 
jecture whether their applications of mental-conduct concepts to 
these other people were correct or incorrect. It would then be 
hazardous or impossible for a man to claim sanity or logical 
consistency even for himself, since he would be debarred from 
comparing his own performances with those of others./ In short, 
our characterisations of persons and their performances as intelligent, 
prudent and virtuous or as stupid, hypocritical and cowardly could 
never have been made, so the problem of providing a special causal 
hypothesis to serve as the basis of such diagnoses would never have 
arisen. (The question, 'How do persons differ from machines ?' arose 
just because everyone already knew how to apply mental-conduct 
concepts before the new causal hypothesis was introduced.) This 
causal hypothesis could not therefore be the source of the criteria 
used in those applications. Nor, of course, has the causal hypothesis 
in any degree improved our handling of those criteria. We still 
distinguish good from bad arithmetic, politic from impolitic conduct 
and fertile from infertile imaginations in the ways in which Descartes 
himself distinguished them before and after he speculated how the 
applicability of these criteria was compatible with the principle of 
mechanical causation. 

He had mistaken the logic of his problem. Instead of asking by 
what criteria intelligent behaviour is actually distinguished from 
non-intelligent behaviour, h$ asked 'Given that the principle of 
mechanical causation does not tell us the difference, what other 
causal principle will tell it us?' He realised that the problem was 


not one of mechanics and assumed that it must therefore be one of 
some counterpart to mechanics. Not unnaturally psychology is 
often cast for just this role. 

When two terms belong to the same category, it is proper to 
construct conjunctive propositions embodying them. Thus a 
purchaser may say that he bought a left-hand glove and a right-hand 
glove, but not that he bought a left-hand glove, a right-hand glove 
and a pair of gloves. 'She came home in a flood of tears and a 
sedan-chair* is a well-known joke based on the absurdity of con- 
joining terms of different types. It would have been equally ridiculous 
to construct the disjunction 'She came home either in a flood of 
tears or else in a sedan-chair . \Now the dogma of the Ghost 
in the Machine does just this. Jt maintains that there exist both 
bodies and minds; that there occur physical processes and mental 
processes; that there are mechanical causes of corporeal move- 
ments and mental causes of corporeal movement^. I shall argue 
that these and other analogous conjunctions are absurd; but, 
it must be noticed, the argument will not show that either of the 
illegitimately conjoined propositions is absurd in itself. I am not, 
for example, denying that there occur mental processes. Doing 
long division is a mental process and so is making a joke. But I am 
saying that the phrase 'there occur mental processes' does not mean 
the same sort of thing as 'there occur physical processes', and, 
therefore, that it makes no sense to conjoin or disjoin the two. ^ 

If my argument is successful, there will follow some interesting 
consequences. First, the hallowed contrast between Mind and Matter 
will be dissipated, but dissipated not by either of the equally hallowed 
absorptions of Mind by Matter or of Matter by Mind, but in quite 
a different way. For the seeming contrast of the two will be shown 
to be as illegitimate as would be the contrast of 'she came home in 
a flood of tears' and 'she came home in a sedan-chair'. The belief 
that there is a polar opposition between Mind and MaTfgr is the 
belief that they are terms of the same logical type. ) 

It will also follow that both Idealism 3ird Materialism arc 
answers to an improper question. The 'reduction' of the material 
world to mental states and processes, as well as the 'reduction' of 
mental states and processes to physical states and processes, pre- 
suppose the legitimacy of the disjunction /Either there exist minds 
or there exist bodies (but not both) 'Alt would be like saying, 


Either she bought a left-hand and a right-hand glove or she bought 
a pair of gloves (but not both)'. 

It is perfectly proper to say, in one logical tone of voice, that 
there exist minds and to say, in another logical tone of voice, that 
there exist bodies. But these expressions do not indicate two different 
species of existence, for 'existence' is not a generic word like 
'coloured' or 'sexed'. They indicate two different senses of 'exist', 
somewhat as 'rising' has different senses in 'the tide is rising', 'hopes 
are rising', and 'the average age of death is rising'. A man would be 
thought to be making a poor joke who said that three things are 
now rising, namely the tide, hopes and the average age of death. 
It would be just as good or bad a joke to say that there exist prime 
numbers and Wednesdays and public opinions and navies; or that 
there exist both minds and bodies*. In the succeeding chapters I 
try to prove that the official theory does rest on a batch of category- 
mistakes by showing that logically absurd corollaries follow from it. 
The exhibition of these absurdities will have the constructive effect 
of bringing out part of the correct logic of mental-conduct concepts. 

(4) Historical Note. 

It would not be true to say that the official theory derives solely 
from Descartes' theories, or even from a more widespread anxiety 
about the implications of seventeenth century mechanics. Scholastic 
and Reformation theology had schooled the intellects of the scientists 
as well as of the laymen, philosophers and clerics of that age. 
Stoic-Augustinian theories of the will were embedded in the 
Calvinist doctrines of sin and grace; Platonic and Aristotelian 
theories of the intellect shaped the orthodox doctrines of the 
immortality of the soul, Descartes was reformulating already 
prevalent theological doctrines of the soul in the new syntax of 
Galileo. The theologian's privacy of conscience became the 
philosopher's privacy of consciousness, and what had been the 
bogy of Predestination reappeared as the bogy of Determinism. 

It would also not be true to say that the two-worlds myth 
did no theoretical good. Myths often do a lot of theoretical good, 
while they are still new. One benefit bestowed by the para- 
mechanical myth was that it j^rtly superannuated the then prevalent 
para-political myth. Minds and their Faculties had previously 
been described by analogies with political superiors and political 


subordinates. The idioms used were those of ruling, obeying, 
collaborating and rebelling. They survived and still survive in 
many ethical and some epistemological discussions. As, in physics, 
the new myth of occult Forces was a scientific improvement on 
the old myth of Final Causes, so, in anthropological and psychological 
theory, the new myth of hidden operations, impulses and agencies 
was an improvement on the old myth of dictations, deferences and 



(1) Foreword. 

IN this chapter I try to show that when we describe people as 
exercising qualities of mind, we are not referring to occult episodes 
of which their overt acts and utterances are effects; we are referring 
to those overt acts and utterances themselves. There are, of course, 
differences, crucial for our inquiry, between describing an action as 
performed absent-mindedly and describing a physiologically 
similar action as done on purpose, with care or with cunning. But 
such differences of description do not consist in the absence or 
presence of an implicit reference to some shadow-action covertly 
prefacing the overt action. They consist, on the contrary, in the 
absence or presence of certain sorts of testable explanatory-cum- 
predictive assertions. 

(2) Intelligence and Intellect. 

The mental-conduct concepts that I choose to examine first arc 
those which belong to that family of concepts ordinarily surnamed 
'intelligence'. Here are a few of the more determinate adjectives of 
this family: 'clever', 'sensible', 'careful', 'methodical', 'inventive', 
'prudent', 'acute', 'logical', 'witty', 'observant', 'critical', 'experi- 
mental', 'quick-witted', 'cunning', 'wise', judicious' and 'scrupulous'. 
When a person is deficient in intelligence he is described as 'stupid' 
or else by more determinate epithets such as 'dull', 'silly', 'careless', 
'unmethodical', 'uninventive', 'rash', 'dense', 'illogical', 'humour- 
less', 'unobservant', 'uncritical', 'unexperimentaT, 'slow,' 'simple', 
'unwise' and 'injudicious'. 

It is of first-rate importance to notice from the start that 
stupidity is not the same thing, or the same sort of thing, as ignorance. 
There is no incompatibility between being well-informed and being 



silly, and a person who has a good nose for arguments or jokes may 
have a bad head for facts. 

Part of the importance of this distinction between being 
intelligent and possessing knowledge lies in the fact that both 
philosophers and laymen tend to treat intellectual operations as the 
core of mental conduct; that is to say, they tend to define all other 
mental-conduct concepts in terms of concepts of cognition. They 
suppose that the primary exercise of minds consists in finding the 
answers to questions and that their other occupations are merely 
applications of considered truths or even regrettable distractions 
from their consideration. The Greek idea that immortality is 
reserved for the theorising part of the soul was discredited, but not 
dispelled, by Christianity. 

When we speak of the intellect or, better, of the intellectual 
powers and performances of persons, we are referring primarily to 
that special class of operations which constitute theorising. Thejjoal 
of these operations is the knowledge of true propositions oflacts. 
Mathematics and the established natural sciences are the mtfdel 
accomplishments of human intellects. The early theorists naturally 
speculated upon what constituted the peculiar excellences of the 
theoretical sciences and disciplines, the growth of which they 
had witnessed and assisted. They jvyere predisposed to find 
that it was in the capacity for rigorous theory that lay the superior- 
ity of men over animals, of civilised men over barbarians and 
even of the divine mind over human minds. They thus be- 
queathed the idea that /the capacity to attain knowledge of truths 
was the defining property of a mind. Other human pQwers 
could be classed as mental only if they could be shown ^to, be 
somehow piloted by the intellectual grasp of true propositions^ To 
be rational was to be able to recognise truths and the connections 
between them. To act rationally was, therefore, to nave one's 
non-theoretical propensities controlled by one's apprehension of 
truths about the conduct of life. 

The main object of this chapter is to show that here are many 
activities which directly display qualities of mind, yet are neither 
themselves intellectual operations nor yet effects of intellectual 
operations. Intelligent practice is ncjt a step-child of theory. On 
the contrary theorising is one practice amongst others and is itself 
intelligently or stupidly conducted. 


iere is another reason why it is important to correct from the 
start the intellectualist doctrine which tries to define intelligence in 
terms of the apprehension of truths, instead of the apprehension of 
truths in terms of intelligence. Theorising is an activity which 
most people can and normally do conduct in silence. They articulate 
in sentences the theories that they construct, but they do not most 
of the time speak these sentences out loud. They say them to 
themselves. Or /they formulate their thoughts in diagrams and 
pictures, but they' do not always set these out on paper. T^y 'see 
them in their minds' eyes'. Much of our ordinary thinking is 
conducted in internal ilibnologue or silent soliloquy, usually 
accompanied by an internal cinematograph-show of visual imagery. 

Thisjtrick of talking to oneself in silence is acquired neither 
quickly nor without effort; and it is a necessary condition of our 
acquiring it that we should have previously learned to talk intelli- 
gently aloud and have heard~and understood other people doing so. 
Keeping our thoughts to ourselves is a sophisticated accomplishment. 
It was notfuntil the Middle Ages that people learned to read without 
reading aloud. Similarly a boy has to learn to read aloud before he 
learns to read under his breath, and to prattle aloud before he prattles 
to himself. Yet many theorists have supposed thajt^the silence in 
which most of us have learned to think is a defining property of 
thought. Plato said that in thinking the soul is talking to itself. 
But silence, though often convenient, is inessential, as is the 
restriction of the audience to one recipient. 

JPlie combination of the two assumptions that theorising is the 
primary activity of minds and that theorising is intrinsically a 
private, silent or internal operation remains one of the main supports 
of the dogma of the ghost in the machine. People tend to identify 
their miners with the 'place' where they conduct their secret 
thoughts. They even come to suppose that there is a special mystery 
about how we publish our thoughts instead of realising that we 
employ a special artifice to keep them to ourselves. 

(3) Knotting How and Knowing That. 

When a person is described by one or other of the intelligence- 
epithets such as 'shrewd' or silly', 'prudent' or 'imprudent', the 
description imputes to him not the knowledge, or ignorance, of this or 
that truth, but the ability, or inability, to do certain sorts of things. 


Tttieorists have been so preoccupied with the task of investigating 
tiife nature, the source and the credentials of the theories that we 
adopt that they have for the most part ignored the question what 
it is for someone to know how to perform tasks, fin prdinary life, 
on the contrary, as well as in the special business of teaching, we 
are much more concerned with people's competences than with 
their cognitive repertoires, with the operations than with the truths 
that they learn. Indeed even when we are concerned with their 
intellectual ~ excellences and deficiencies, we are interested less in 
the stocks of truths that they acquire and retain than in their capacities 
to find out truths for themselves and their ability to organise and 
exploit them, when discovered. Often we deplore a person's ignor- 
ance of some fact only because we deplore the stupidity of which 
his ignorance is a consequence. 

There are certain parallelisms between knowing how and 
knowing that, as well as certain divergences. We speak of learning 
how to play an instrument as well as of learning that something is 
the case; of finding out how to prune trees as well as of finding out 
that the Romans had a camp in a certain place; of forgetting how to 
tie a reef-knot as well as of forgetting that the German for 'knife' 
is 'Messer . We can wonder how as well as wonder whether. 

On the other hand we never speak of a person believing or 
opining how, and though it is proper to ask for the grounds or 
reasons for someone's acceptance of a proposition, this question 
cannot be asked of someone's skill at cards or prudence in 

What is involved in our descriptions of people as knowing how 
to make and appreciate jokes, to talk grammatically, to play chess, 
to fish, or to argue? Part of what is meant is that, when they perform 
these operations, they tend to perform them well, i.e. Correctly or 
efficiently or successfully. Their performances come up to certain 
standards, or satisfy certain criteria. But this is ncjf enough. The 
well-regulated clock keeps good time and the well-drilled circus 
seal performs its tricks flawlessly, yet we do not call them 
'intelligent'. We reserve this title for the persons responsible for 
their performances. <TTo be intelligent is not merely to satisfy 
criteria, but to applv them; to regulate one's actions and not merely 
to be well-regulat^dL)A person's performance is described as careful 
or skilful, if in his operations he is ready to detect and correct lapses, 


to repeat and improve upon successes, to profit from the examples of 
others and so forth. He applies criteria in performing critically, that 
is, in trying to get things right. 

JThis point is commonly expressed in the vernacular by saying 
that an action exhibits intelligence, if, and only if, .the agent is 
thinking what he is doing while he is doing it,-and thinking what 
he is doing in such a manner that he would not do the action so 
well if he were not thinking what he is doing. This popular idiom 
is sometimes appealed to as evidence in favour of the intellectualist 
legend. Champions of this legend are apt to try to reassimilate 
knowing how to knowing that by arguing that intelligent 
performance involves the observance of rules, or the application of 
criteria. It follows that the operation which is characterised as 
intelligent must be preceded by an intellectual acknowledgment 
of these rules or criteria; that is, the agent must first go 
through the internal process of avowing to himself certain 
propositions about what is to be dong ('maxims', 'imperatives' 
or 'regulative propositions' as they are sometimes called); 
only then can he execute his performance in accordance with 
those dictates.\He must preach to himself before he can practise. 
The chef must recite his recipes to himself before he can cook 
according to them; the hero must lend his inner ear to some 
appropriate moral imperative before swimming out to save the 
drowning man;, the chess-player must run over in his head all the 
relevant rules andtactical maxims of the game before he can make 
correct and skilful moves. To do something thinking what one is 
doing is, according to this legend, always to do two things; 
namely, to consider certain appropriate propositions, or pre- 
scriptions, and to put into practice what these propositions or 
prescriptions enjoin. It is to do a bit of theory and then to do a bit 
of practice. * 

Certainly we often do not only reflect before we act but reflect 
in order to act properly. The chess-player may require some time in 
which to plan his moves before he makes them. Yet the general 
assertion that all intelligent performance requires to be prefaced by 
the consideration of appropriate propositions rings unplausibly, even 
when it is apologetically conceded that(jhe required considera- 
tion is often very swift and may go quite unmarked by the agent. I 
shall argue that the intellectualist legend is false and that when we 


describe a performance as intelligent, this does not 'entail the 
double operation of considering and executing. 

Fijs^there^^re many classes of performances in which intelligence 
is displayed, but the rules or criteria of which are unformulatedf 
The wit, when challenged to cite the maxims, or canons^ by whiclf 
he constructs and appreciates jokes, is unable to answer\He knows 
how to make good jokes and how to detect bad ones, but he cannot 
tell us or himself any recipes for them. So the practice of humour 
is not a client of its theory 1 ^ The canons of aesthetic taste, of tactful 
manners and of inventive technique similarly remain unpropounded 
without impediment to the intelligent exercise of those gifts. 

\Rules of correct reasoning were first extracted by Aristotle, 
yet then knew how to avoid and detect fallacies before they learned 
his lessons, just as men sinceA(Vristotle, and including Aristotle, 
ordinarily conduct their arguments without making any internal 
reference to his formulae. They do not plan their arguments before 
constructing them/ Indeed if they had to plan what to think before 
thinking it they would never think at all; for this planning would 
itself be unplanned. ^ 

Efficient praStic^ precedes the theory of it; methodologies 
presuppose the application of the methods, of the critical investiga- 
tion of which they are the products. y was because Aristotle found 
himself and others reasoning now intelligently and now stupidly 
and it was because Izaak Walton found himself and others angling 
sometimes effectively and sometimes ineffectively that both were 
able to give to their pupils the maxims and prescriptions of their arts. 
It is therefore possible for people intelligently to perform some 
sorts of operations when they are not yet able to consider any 
propositions enjoining how they should be performed. Some 
intelligent performances are not controlled by any anterior 
acknowledgments of the principles applied in them. 

The crucial objection to the intellectualist legend is this. 
The consideration of propositions is itself an operation the execution 
of which can be more or less intelligent, less or more stupid. But if, 
for any operation to be intelligently executed, a prior theoretical 
operation had first to be performed and performed intelligently, 
it would be a logical impossibility fcjr anyone ever to break into the 

Let us consider some salient points at which this regress would 


arise. According to the legend, whenever an agent does anything 
intelligently, his act is preceded and steered by another internal 
act of considering a regulative proposition appropriate to his 
practical problem. But what makes him consider the one maxim 
which is appropriate rather than any of the thousands which are 
not? Why does the hero not find himself calling to mind a cooking- 
recipe, or a rule of Formal Logic? Perhaps he does, but then his 
intellectual process is silly and not sensible. Intelligently reflecting 
how to act is, among other things, considering what is pertinent 
and disregarding what is inappropriate. Must we then say that for 
the hero's reflections how to act to be intelligent he must first reflect 
$ow best to reflect how to act? The endlessness of this implied 
regress shows that the application of the criterion of appropriateness 
does not entail the occurrence of a process of considering this 

Next, supposing still that to act reasonably I must first perpend 
the reason for so acting, how am I led to make a suitable application 
of the reason to the particular situation which my action is to meet? 
For the reason, or maxim, is inevitably a proposition of some 
generality. It cannot embody specifications to fit every detail of the 
particular state of affairs. Clearly, once more, I must be sensible 
and not stupid, and this good sense cannot itself be a product of the 
intellectual acknowledgment of any general principle. ^A soldier 
docs not become a shrewd general merely by endorsing the 
strategic principles of Clausewitz; he must also be competent to 
apply them. jCnowing how to apply maxims cannot be reduced to, 
or derived from, the acceptance of those or any other maxims. 1 

To put it quite generally, the absurd assumption made by 'the 
intcllectualist legend is this, that a performance of any sort inherits 
all its title to intelligence from some anterior internal operation of 
planning what to do. Now very often we do go through such a 
process of planning what to do, and, if we are silly, our planning is 
silly, if shrewd, our planning is shrewd. It is also notoriously possible 
for us to plan shrewdly and perform stupidly, i.e. to flout our 
precepts in our practice. By the original argument, therefore, our 
intellectual planning process must inherit its title to shrewdness 
from yet another interior process of planning to plan, and this 
process could in its turn be silly or shrewd. The regress is infinite, 
and this reduces to absurdity the theory that'-for an operation to be 


intelligent it must be steered by a prior intellectual operationO^hat 
distinguishes sensible from silly operations is not their parentage but 
their procedure, and this holds no less for intellectual than for 
practical performances. 'Intelligent' cannot be defined in terms of 
'intellectual' or 'knowing how 9 in terms of 'knowing that 9 ; 
'thinking what I am doing' does not connote 'both thinking what to 
do and doing it'. When I do something intelligently, i.e. thinking 
what I am doing, I am doing one thing and not two. My per- 
formance has a special procedure or manner, not special antecedents. 

(4) The Motives of the Intellectualist Legend. 

Why are people so strongly drawn to believe, in the face of their 
own daily experience, that the intelligent execution of an operation 
must embody two processes, one of doing and another of theorising ? 
Part of the answer is that they are wedded to the dogma of the ghost 
in the machine. Since doing is often an overt muscular affair, it 
is written off as a merely physical process. On the assumption of 
the antithesis between 'physical' and 'mental', it follows that muscular 
doing cannot itself be a mental operation. To earn the title 'skilful', 
'cunning', or 'humorous', it must therefore get it by transfer from 
another counterpart act occurring not 'in the machine' but 'in the 
ghost'; for 'skilful', 'cunning' and 'humorous' are certainly mental 

It is, of course, perfectly true that when we characterise as 
witty or tactful some piece of overt behaviour, we are not con- 
sidering only the muscular movements which we witness. A parrot 
might have made the same remark in the same situation without 
our crediting it with a sense of humour, or a lout might have done 
precisely what the tactful man did, without our thinking him 
tactful. But if one and the same vocal utterance is a stroke of humour 
from the humorist, but a mere noise-response, when Issuing from 
the parrot, it is tempting to say that we are ascribing wit not to 
something that we hear but to something else that we do not hear. 
We are accordingly tempted to say that what makes one audible 
or visible action witty, while another audibly or visibly similar 
action was not, is that the former was attended by another inaudible 
and invisible action which was tljp real exercise of wit. But to 
admit, as we must, that there may be no visible or audible difference 
between a tactful or witty act and a tactless or humourless one is 


not to admit that the difference is constituted by the performance or 
non-performance of some extra secret acts. 

The cleverness of the clown may be exhibited in his tripping and 
tumbling. He trips and tumbles just as clumsy people do, except 
that he trips and tumbles on purpose and after much rehearsal and at 
the golden moment and where the children can see him and so as 
not to hurt himself. The spectators applaud his skill at seeming 
clumsy, but what they applaud is not some extra hidden performance 
executed 'in his head'. It is his visible performance that they admire, 
but they admire it not for being an effect of any hidden internal 
causes but for being an exercise of a skill. Now a skill is not an act. 
It is therefore neither a witnessable nor an unwitnessable act. To 
recognise that a performance is an exercise of a skill is indeed to 
appreciate it in the light of a factor which could not be separately 
recorded by a camera. But the reason why the skill exercised in a 
performance cannot be separately recorded by a camera is not that 
it is an occult or ghostly happening, but that it is not a happening 
at all. It is a disposition, or complex of dispositions, and a disposition 
is a factor of the wrong logical type to be seen or unseen, recorded 
or unrecorded. Just as the habit of talking loudly is not itself loud 
or quiet, since it is not the sort of term of which 'loud' and 'quiet' 
can be predicated, or just as a susceptibility to headaches is for the 
same reason not itself unendurable or endurable, so the skills, tastes 
and bents which are exercised in overt or internal operations are not 
themselves overt or internal, witnessable or unwitnessable. The 
traditional theory of the mind has misconstrued the type-distinction 
between disposition and exercise into its mythical bifurcation of 
unwitnessable mental causes and their witnessable physical 

The clown's trippings and tumblings are the workings of his 
mind, for they are his jokes; but the visibly similar trippings and 
tumblings of a clumsy man are not the workings of that man's mind. 
For he does not trip on purpose. Tripping on purpose is both a bodily 
and a mental process, but it is not two processes, such as one process 
of purposing to trip and, as an effect, another process of tripping. 
Yet the old myth dies hard. We are still tempted to argue that if 
the clown's antics exhibit carefulness, judgment, wit, and appreciation 
of the moods of his spectators, there must be occurring in the 
clown's head a counterpart performance to that which is taking 


place on the sawdust. If he is thinking what he is doing, there must 
be occurring behind his painted face a cogitative shadow-operation 
which we do not witness, tallying with, and controlling, the bodily 
contortions which we do witness. Surely the thinking of thoughts 
is the basic activity of minds and surely, too, the process of thinking 
is an invisible and inaudible process. So how can the clown's 
visible and audible performance be his mind at work? 

To do justice to this objection it is necessary to make a verbal 
concession. There has fairly recently come into general use a certain 
special sense of the words 'mental* and 'mind'. We speak of 'mental 
arithmetic', of 'mind-reading' and of debates going on 'in the 
mind', and it certainly is the case that what is in this sense mental 
is unwitnessable. A boy is said to be doing 'mental arithmetic' when 
instead of writing down, or reciting aloud, the numerical symbols 
with which he is operating, he says them to himself, performing his 
calculations in silent soliloquy. Similarly a person is said to be 
reading the mind of another when he describes truly what the other 
is saying or picturing to himself in auditory or visual images. That 
these are special uses of 'mental' and 'mind' is easily shown. For a 
boy who does his calculating aloud, or on paper, may be reasoning 
correctly and organising his steps methodically; his reckoning is 
not the less a careful intellectual operation for being conducted hi 
public instead of in private. His performance is therefore an exercise 
of a mental faculty in the normal sense of 'mental'. 

Now calculating does not first acquire the rank of proper 
thinking when its author begins to do it with his lips closed and 
his hands in his pockets. The sealing of the lips is no part of the 
definition of thinking. A man may think aloud or half under his 
breath; he may think silently, yet with lip-movements conspicuous 
enough to be read by a lip-reader; or he may, as most of us have 
done since nursery-days, think in silence and with motionless lips. 
The differences are differences of social and personal convenience, 
of celerity and of facility. They need import no more differences 
into the coherence, cogency or appropriateness of the intellectual 
operations performed than is imported into them by a writer's 
preference for pencils over pens, or for invisible ink over ordinary 
ink. A deaf and dumb person talks inpaanual signs. Perhaps, when he 
wants to keep his thoughts to himself, he makes these signs with his 
hands kept behind his back or under the table. The fact that these 


signs might happen to be observed by a Paul Pry would not lead 
us or their maker to say that he was not thinking. 

This special use of 'mental' and 'mind' in which they signify 
what is done 'in one's head' cannot be used as evidence for the 
dogma of the ghost in the machine. It is nothing but a contagion 
from that dogma. The technical trick of conducting our thinking 
in auditory word-images, instead of in spoken words, does indeed 
secure secrecy for our thinking, since the auditory imaginings 
of one person are not seen or heard by another (or, as we shall see, 
by their owner either). But this secrecy is not the secrecy ascribed 
to the postulated episodes of the ghostly shadow-world. It is merely 
the convenient privacy which characterises the tunes that run in 
my head and the things that I see in my mind's eye. 

Moreover the fact that a person says things to himself in his 
head does not entail that he is thinking.He can babble deliriously, 
or repeat jingles in inner speech, just as he can in talking aloud. 
The distinction between talking sense and babbling, or between 
thinking what one is saying and merely saying, cuts across the 
distinction between talking aloud and talking to oneself. What 
makes a verbal operation an exercise of intellect is independent 
of what makes it public or private. Arithmetic done with pencil 
and paper may be more intelligent than mental arithmetic, and the 
public tumblings of the clown may be more intelligent than the 
tumblings which he merely 'sees' in his mind's eye or 'feels' in his 
mind's legs, if, as may or may not be the case, any such imaginings 
of antics occur. 

(5) 'In my head'. 

It is convenient to say something here about our everyday use 
of the phrase 'in my head'. When I do mental arithmetic, I am likely 
to say that I have had the numbers with which I have been working 
'in my head' and not on paper; and if I have been listening to a 
catchy air or a verbal jingle, I am likely to describe myself later 
on as still having the tune or jingle 'running in my head'. It is 'in 
my head' that I go over the Kings of England, solve anagrams and 
compose limericks. Why is this felt to be an appropriate 
and expressive metaphor? Fo* a metaphor it certainly is. No 
one thinks that when a tune is running in my head, a surgeon 
could unearth a little orchestra buried inside my skull or that a 


doctor by applying a stethoscope to my cranium could hear a 
muffled tune, in the way in which I hear the muffled whistling of 
my neighbour when I put my ear to the wall between our rooms. 

It is sometimes suggested that the phrase derives from theories 
about the relations between brains and intellectual processes. It 
probably is from such theories that we derive such expressions as 
'racking one's brains to solve a problem'; yet no one boasts of 
having solved an anagram 'in his brains'. A schoolboy would 
sometimes be ready to say that he had done an easy piece of 
arithmetic in his head, though he did not have to use his brains 
over it; and no intellectual effort or acumen is required in order to 
have a tune running in one's head. Conversely, arithmetic done 
with paper and pencil may tax one's brains, although it is not done 
'in the head'. 

It appears to be primarily of imagined noises that we find it 
natural to say that they take place 'inside our heads' ; and of these 
imagined noises it is primarily those that we imagine ourselves both 
uttering and hearing. It is the words which I fancy myself saying 
to myself and the tunes which I fancy myself humming or whistling 
to myself which are first thought of as droning through this 
corporeal studio. With a little violence the phrase 'in my head' is 
then sometimes, by some people, extended to all fancied noises 
and even transferred to the description of the things that I fancy 
I see; but we shall come back to this extension later on. 

What then tempts us to describe our imaginations of ourselves 
saying or humming things to ourselves by saying that the tilings 
are said or hummed in our heads? First, the idiom has an indis- 
pensable negative function. When the wheel-noises of the train 
make 'Rule Britannia' run in my head, the wheel-noises are audible 
to my fellow-passengers, but my 'Rule Britannia' is not. The 
rhythmic rattle fills the whole carriage; my 'Rule Britannia' does 
not fill that compartment or any part of it, so it is tempting to say 
that it fills instead another compartment, namely one that is a part 
of me. The rattle-noises have their source in the wheels and the 
rails; my 'Rule Britannia' does not have its source in any orchestra 
outside me, so it is tempting to state this negative fact by saying 
that it has its source inside me. But $iis by itself would not explain 
why I find it a natural metaphor to say that 'Rule Britannia' is 
running in my head rather than in my throat, chest or stomach. 


When I hear the words that you utter or the tunes that the 
band plays, I ordinarily have an idea, sometimes a wrong one, 
from which direction the noises come and at what distance from 
me their source is. But when I hear the words that I myself utter 
aloud, the tunes that I myself hum, the sounds of my own chewing, 
breathing and coughing, the situation is quite different, since here 
there is no question of the noises coming from a source which is 
in any direction or at any distance from me. I do not have to turn 
my head about in order to hear better, nor can I advance my ear 
nearer to the source of the noise. Furthermore, though I can shut 
out, or. muffle, your voice and the band's tunes by stopping up my 
ears, this action, so far from decreasing, increases the loudness and 
resonance of my own voice. My own utterances, as well as other 
head-noises like throbbings, sneezes, sniffs and the rest, are not 
airborne noises coming from a more or less remote source; they are 
made in the head and are heard through the head, though some of 
them are also heard as airborne noises. If I make noises of a very 
resonant or hacking kind, I can feel the vibrations or jerks in my 
head in the same sense of 'feel in' as I feel the vibrations of the tuning- 
fork in my hand. 

Now these noises are literally and not metaphorically in the 
head. They are real head-borne noises, which the doctor could hear 
through his stethoscope. But the sense in which we say that the 
schoolboy doing mental arithmetic has his numbers not on paper 
but in his head is not this literal sense but a metaphorical sense 
borrowed from it. That his numbers are not really being heard in 
his head in the way in which he really hears his own coughing in 
his head is easily shown. For if he whistles or yells loudly with his 
ears stopped up, he can half-deafen himself or set his ears singing. 
But if in ^oing his mental arithmetic, he 'sings' his numbers to 
himself as if in a very shrill voice, nothing half-deafening occurs. 
He makes and hears no shrill noises, for he is merely imagining 
himself making and hearing shrill noises, and an imagined shriek 
is not a shriek, and it is not a whisper either. But he describes his 
numbers as being in his head, just as I describe my 'Rule Britannia' 
as running in my head, because this is a lively way of expressing 
the fact that the imagination t>f the production-cum-audition is a 
vivid one. Our phrase 'in my head' is meant to be understood as 
inside inverted commas, like the verb 'see* in such expressions 


as "I 'see' the incident now, though it took place forty years ago". 
If we were really doing what we imagine ourselves doing, namely 
hearing ourselves saying or humming things, then these noises 
would be in our heads in the literal usage of the phrase. However, 
since we are not producing or hearing noises, but only fancying 
ourselves doing so, when we say that the numbers and the tunes 
that we imagine ourselves droning to ourselves are 'in our heads', 
we say it in the knowing tone of voice reserved for expressing 
things which are not to be taken literally. 

I have said that there is some inclination to expand the employ- 
ment of the idiom 'in my head', to cover not only imagined 
self-made and head-borne noises but also imagined noises in 
general and, even wider, imagined sights as well. I suspect that this 
inclination, if I am right in thinking that it exists, derives from the 
following familiar set of facts. In the case of all the specifically 
head-senses, either we are endowed with a natural set of shutters 
or we can easily provide an artificial set. We can shut out the view 
with our eyelids or with our hands; our lips shield our tongues; 
our fingers can be used to stop our ears and nostrils. So what is 
there for you and me to see, hear, taste and smell can be excluded 
by putting up these shutters. But the things that I sec in my mind's 
eye are not excluded when I close my eyes. Indeed sometimes I 
'see' them more vividly than ever when I do so. To dismiss the 
ghastly vision of yesterday's road-accident, I may even have to 
open my eyes. This makes it tempting to describe the difference 
between imaginary and real views by saying that while the objects 
of the latter are on the far side of the shutters, the objects of the 
former are on the near side of them; the latter are well outside my 
head, so the former are well inside it. But this point needs a certain 

Sight and hearing are distance-senses, while touch, taste and 
smell are not; that is to say, when we make our ordinary 
uses of the verbs 'see', 'hear', 'watch', 'listen', 'espy', 'overhear' 
and the rest, the things we speak of as 'seen' and 'listened to' are 
things at a distance from us. We hear a train far away to the south 
and we get a peep at a planet up in the sky. Hence we find a diffi- 
culty in talking about the whereabouts of the spots that float 
'before the eye'. For though seen they are not out there. But 
we do not speak of feeling or tasting things in the distance, and if 


asked how far off and in which direction a tiling lies, we do not 
reply 'Let me have a sniff or a taste'. Of course we may explore 
tactually and kinaesthetically, but when we find out in these ways 
where the electric light switch is, we are finding that it is where 
the finger-tips are. An object handled is where the hand is, but 
an object seen or heard is not, usually, anywhere near where the 
eye or ear is. 

So when we want to emphasise the fact that something is not 
really being seen or heardi but is only being imagined as seen or 
heard, we tend to assert its imaginariness by denying its distance, 
and, by a convenient impropriety, we deny its distance by asserting 
its metaphorical nearness. 'Not out there, but in here; not outside 
the shutters and real, but inside the shutters and unreal', 'not an 
external reality, but an internal phantasm'. We have no such 
linguistic trick for describing what we imagine ourselves feeling, 
smelling, or tasting. A passenger on a ship feels the deck rolling 
beneath him chiefly in his feet and calves; and when he gets ashore, 
he still 'feels' the pavement rolling beneath him 'in his feet and 
calves' ; but as kinaesthetic feeling is not a distance-sense, he cannot 
pillory his imaginary leg-feelings as illusions by saying that the 
rolling is in his legs and not in the street, for the rolling that he had 
felt when aboard has equally been felt in his legs. He could not 
have said 'I feel the other end of the ship rolling'. Nor does he 
describe the illusory rolling of the pavements as being 'felt in his 
head', but only as 'felt in his legs'. 

I suggest, then, that the phrase 'in the head' is felt to be an 
appropriate and expressive metaphor in the first instance for vividly 
imagined self-voiced noises, and secondarily for any imaginary 
noises and even for imaginary sights, because in these latter cases 
a denial of distance, by assertion of metaphorical nearness, is 
intended to be construed as an assertion of imaginariness; and the 
nearness is relative, not so much to the head-organs of sight and 
hearing themselves, as to the places where their shutters are put up. 
It is an interesting verbal point that people sometimes use 'mental' 
and 'merely mental' as synonyms for 'imaginary'. 

But it does not matter for my general argument whether this 
excursus into philology is correct or not. It will serve to draw 
attention to the sorts of things which we say are 'in our heads', 
namely, such things as imagined words, tunes and, perhaps, vistas. 


When people employ the idiom 'in the mind', they are usually 
expressing over-sophisticatedly what we ordinarily express by the 
less misleading metaphorical use of 'in the head'. The phrase 'in 
the mind' can and should always be dispensed with. Its use habituates 
its employers to the view that minds are queer 'places', the 
occupants of which are special-status phantasms. It is part of the 
function of this book to show that exercises of qualities of mind do 
not, save per accidens, take place 'in the head', in the ordinary sense 
of the phrase, and those which do so have no special priority over 
those which do not. 

(6) The positive account of Knowing How. 

So far I hope to have shown that the exercise of intelligence in 
practice cannot be analysed into a tandem operation of first 
considering prescriptions and then executing them. We have also 
examined some of the motives which incline theorists to adopt this 

But if to perform intelligently is to do one thing and not two 
things, and if to perform intelligently is to apply criteria in the 
conduct of the performance itself, it remains to show how this 
factor does characterise those operations which we recognise as 
skilful, prudent, tasteful or logical. For there need be no visible or 
audible differences between an action done with skill and one done 
from sheer habit, blind impulse, or in a fit of absence of mind. A 
parrot may squawk out 'Socrates is mortal' immediately after 
someone has uttered premisses from which this conclusion follows. 
One boy may, while thinking about cricket, give by rote the same 
correct answer to a multiplication problem which another boy gives 
who is thinking what he is doing. Yet we do not call the parrot 
'logical', or describe the inattentive boy as working out the problem. 

Consider first a boy learning to play chess. Clearly* before he 
has yet heard of the rules of the game he might by accident make 
a move with his knight which the rules permit. The fact that 
he makes a permitted move does not entail that he knows the rule 
which permits it. Nor need the spectator be able to discover in 
the way the boy makes this move any visible feature which shows 
whether the move is a random one, 05. one made in knowledge of the 
rules. However, the boy now begins to learn the game properly, 
and this generally involves his^receiving explicit instruction in the 


rules. He probably gets them by heart and is then ready to cite 
them on demand. During his first few games he probably has to go 
over the rules aloud or in his head, and to ask now and then how 
they should be applied to this or that particular situation. But 
very soon he comes to observe the rules without thinking of them. 
He makes the permitted moves and avoids the forbidden ones; he 
notices and protests when his opponent breaks the rules. But he no 
longer cites to himself or to the room the formulae in which the 
bans and permissions are declared. It has become second nature to 
him to do what is allowed and to avoid what is forbidden. At this 
stage he might even have lost his former ability to cite the rules. If 
asked to instruct another beginner, he might have forgotten how 
to state the rules and he would show the beginner how to play 
only by himself making the correct moves and cancelling the 
beginner's false moves. 

But it would be quite possible for a boy to learn chess without 
ever hearing or reading the rules at all. By watching the moves 
made by others and by noticing which of his own moves were 
conceded and which were rejected, he could pick up the art of 
playing correctly while still quite unable to propound the regula- 
tions in terms of which 'correct' and 'incorrect' are defined. We 
all learned the rules of hunt-the-thimble and hide-and-seek and the 
elementary rules of grammar and logic in this way. We learn how 
by practice, schooled indeed by criticism and example, but often 
quite unaided by any lessons in the theory. 

It should be noticed that the boy is not said to know how to 
play, if all that he can do is to recite the rules accurately. He must 
be able to make the required moves. But he is said to know how to 
play if, although he cannot cite the rules, he normally does make the 
permitted moves, avoid the forbidden moves and protest if his 
opponent iflakes forbidden moves. His knowledge how is exercised 
primarily in the moves that he makes, or concedes, and in the moves 
that he avoids or vetoes. So long as he can observe the rules, we do 
not care if he cannot also formulate them. It is not what he does 
in his head or with his tongue, but what he does on the board 
that shows whether or not he knows the rules in the executive way 
of being able to apply them. Similarly a foreign scholar might not 
know how to speak grammatical English as well as an English 
child, for all that he had mastered the theory of English grammar. 


(7) Intelligent Capacities versus Habits. 

The ability to apply rules is the product of practice. It is therefore 
tempting to argue that competences and skills arc just habits. They 
are certainly second natures or acquired dispositions, but it does not 
follow from this that they are mere habits. Habits are one sort, but 
npt the only sort, of second nature, and it will be argued later that 
the common assumption that all second natures are mere habits 
obliterates distinctions which are of cardinal importance for the 
inquiries in which we are engaged. 

The ability to give by rote the correct solutions of multiplication 
problems differs in certain important respects from the ability to 
solve them by calculating. When we describe someone as doing 
something by pure or blind habit, we mean that he does it auto- 
matically and without having to mind what he is doing. He docs 
not exercise care, vigilance, or criticism. After the toddling-age we 
walk on pavements without minding our steps. But a mountaineer 
walking over ice-covered rocks in a high wind in the dark does 
not move his limbs by blind habit; he thinks what he is doing, he 
is ready for emergencies, he economises in effort, he makes tests 
and experiments; in short he walks with some degree of skill and 
judgment. If he makes a mistake, he is inclined not to repeat it, and 
if he finds a new trick effective he is inclined to continue to use it 
and to improve on it. He is concomitantly walking and teaching 
himself how to walk in conditions of this sort. It is of the essence 
of merely habitual practices that one performance is a replica of its 
predecessors. It is of the essence of intelligent practices that one 
performance is modified by its predecessors. The agent is still 

This distinction between habits and intelligent capacities can 
be illustrated by reference to the parallel distinction between the 
methods used for inculcating the two sorts of second 'nature. We 
build up habits by drill, but we build up intelligent capacities by 
training. Drill (or conditioning) consists in the imposition of 
repetitions. The recruit learns to slope arms by repeatedly going 
through just the same motions by numbers. The child learns the 
alphabet and the multiplication tables in the same way. The 
practices are not learned until the pupil's responses to his cues are 
automatic, until he can 'do them in his sleep', as it is revealingly 
put. Training, on the other hand, though it embodies plenty of 


sheer drill, does not consist of drill. It involves the stimulation by 
criticism and example of the pupil's own judgment. He learns how 
to do things thinking what he is doing, so that every operation 
performed is itself a new lesson to him how to perform better. 
The soldier who was merely drilled to slope arms correctly has to 
be trained to be proficient in marksmanship and map-reading. Drill 
dispenses with intelligence, training develops it. We do not expect 
the soldier to be able to read maps 'in his sleep'. 

There is a further important difference between habits and 
intelligent capacities, to bring out which it is necessary to say a 
few words about the logic of dispositional concepts in general. 

When we describe glass as brittle, or sugar as soluble, we are 
using dispositional concepts, the logical force of which is this. 
The brittleness of glass does not consist in the fact that it is at a 
given moment actually being shivered. It may be brittle without 
ever being shivered. To say that it is brittle is to say that if it ever 
is, or ever had been, struck or strained, it would fly, or have flown, 
into fragments. To say that sugar is soluble is to say that it would 
dissolve, or would have dissolved, if immersed in water. 

A statement ascribing a dispositional property to a thing has 
much, though not everything, in common with a statement 
subsuming the thing under a law. To possess a dispositional property 
is not to be in a particular state, or to undergo a particular change; 
it is to be bound or liable to be in a particular state, or to undergo 
a particular change, when a particular condition is realised. 
The same is true about specifically human dispositions such as 
qualities of character. My being an habitual smoker does not entail 
that I am at this or that moment smoking; it is my permanent 
proncness to smoke when I am not eating, sleeping, lecturing or 
attending funerals, and have not quite recently been smoking. 

In discussing dispositions it is initially helpful to fasten on the 
simplest models, such as the brittleness of glass or the smoking habit 
of a man. For in describing these dispositions it is easy to unpack 
the hypothetical proposition implicitly conveyed in the ascription 
of the dispositional properties. To be brittle is just to be bound or 
likely to fly into fragments in such and such conditions; to be a 
smoker is just to be bound or likely to fill, light and draw on a pipe 
in such and such conditions. These are simple, single-track disposi- 
tions, the actualisations of which are nearly uniform. 


But the practice of considering such simple models of dispositions, 
though initially helpful, leads at a later stage to erroneous assump- 
tions. There are many dispositions the actualisations of which can 
take a wide and perhaps unlimited variety of shapes; many disposi- 
tion-concepts are determinable concepts. When an object is 
described as hard, we do not mean only that it would resist 
deformation; we mean also that it would, for example, give out a 
sharp sound if struck, that it would cause us pain if we came into 
sharp contact with it, that resilient objects would bounce off it, 
and so on indefinitely. If we wished to unpack all that is conveyed 
in describing an animal as gregarious, we should similarly have to 
produce an infinite series of different hypothetical proposi- 

Now the higher-grade dispositions of people with which this 
inquiry is largely concerned are, in general, not single-track 
dispositions, but dispositions the exercises of which are indefinitely 
heterogeneous. When Jane Austen wished to show the specific 
kind of pride which characterised the heroine of 'Pride and 
Prejudice', she had to represent her actions, words, thoughts and 
feelings in d, thousand different situations. There is no one standard 
type of action or reaction such that Jane Austen could say 'My 
heroine's kind of pride was just the tendency to do this, whenever 
a situation of that sort arose'. 

Epistemologists, among others, often fall into the trap or 
expecting dispositions to have uniform exercises. For instance, when 
they recognise that the verbs 'know' and 'believe' are ordinarily 
used dispositionally, they assume that there must therefore exist 
one-pattern intellectual processes in which these cognitive disposi- 
tions are actualised. Flouting the testimony of experience, they 
postulate that, for example, a man who believes that^the earth is 
round must from time to time be going through some unique 
proceeding of cognising, judging', or internally re-asserting, with a 
feeling of confidence, 'The earth is round'. In fact, of course, people 
do not harp on statements in this way, and even if they did do so 
and even if we knew that they did, we still should not be satisfied 
that they believed that the earth was round, unless we also found them 
inferring, imagining, saying and dbing a great number of other 
things as well. If we found them inferring, imagining, saying and 
doing these other tilings, we should be satisfied that they believed 


the earth to be round, even if we had the best reasons for thinking 
that they never internally harped on the original statement at all. 
However often and stoutly a skater avers to us or to himself, that 
the ice will bear, he shows that he has his qualms, if he keeps to the 
edge of the pond, calls his children away from the middle, keeps 
his eye on the life-belts or continually speculates what would 
happen, if the ice broke. 

(8) The exercise of intelligence. 

In judging that someone's performance is or is not intelligent, 
we have, as has been said, in a certain manner to look beyond the 
performance itself. For there is no particular overt or inner 
performance which could not have been accidentally or 'mechanic- 
ally' executed by an idiot, a sleepwalker, a man in panic, absence 
of mind or delirium or even, sometimes, by a parrot. But in looking 
beyond the performance itself, we are not trying to pry into some 
hidden counterpart performance enacted on the supposed secret 
stage of the agent's inner life. We are considering his abilities and 
propensities of which this performance was an actualisation. Our 
inquiry is not into causes (and a fortiori not into occult causes), but 
into capacities, skills, habits, liabilities and bents. We observe, for 
example, a soldier scoring a bull's eye. Was it luck or was it skill ? 
If he has the skill, then he can get on or near the bull's eye again, 
even if the wind strengthens, the range alters and the target moves. 
Or if his second shot is an outer, his third, fourth and fifth shots will 
probably creep nearer and nearer to the bull's eye. He generally 
checks his breathing before pulling the trigger, as he did on this 
occasion; he is ready to advise his neighbour what allowances to 
make for refraction, wind, etc. Marksmanship is a complex of 
skills, and the question whether he hit the bull's eye by luck or 
from good fnarksmanship is the question whether or not he has the 
skills, and, if he has, whether he used them by making his shot with 
care, self-control, attention to the conditions and thought of his 

To decide whether his bull's eye was a fluke or a good shot, we 
need and he himself might need to take into account more than 
this one success. Namely, \ye should take into account his 
subsequent shots, his past record, his explanations or excuses, the 
advice he gave to his neighbour and a host of other clues of various 


sorts. There is no one signal of a man's knowing how to shoot, but a 
modest assemblage of heterogeneous performances generally 
suffices to establish beyond reasonable doubt whether he knows how 
to shoot or not. Only then, if at all, can it be decided whether he 
hit the bull's eye because he was lucky, or whether he hit it because 
he was marksman enough to succeed when he tried. 

A drunkard at the chessboard makes the one move which upsets 
his opponent's plan of campaign. The spectators are satisfied that 
this was due not to cleverness but to luck, if they are satisfied that 
most of his moves made in this state break the rules of chess, or have 
no tactical connection with the position of the game, that he would 
not be likely to repeat this move if the tactical situation were to 
recur, that he would not applaud such a move if made by another 
player in a similar situation, that he could not explain why he had 
done it or even describe the threat under which his King had been. 

Their problem is not one of the occurrence or non-occurrence of 
ghostly processes, but one of the truth or falsehood of certain 'could' 
and 'would' propositions and certain other particular applications 
of them. For, roughly, the mind is not the topic of sets of untestable 
categorical propositions, but the topic of sets of testable hypo- 
thetical and semi-hypothetical propositions. The difference between 
a normal person and an idiot is not that the normal person is really 
two persons while the idiot is only one, but that the normal person 
can do a lot of things which the idiot cannot do; and 'can' and 
'cannot' are not occurrence words but modal words. Of course, 
in describing the moves actually made by the drunk and the sober 
players, or the noises actually uttered by the idiotic and the sane 
men, we have to use not only 'could' and 'would' expressions, but 
also 'did' and 'did not' expressions. The drunkard's move was made 
recklessly and the sane man was minding what he was saying. In 
Chapter V I shall try to show that the crucial differences between 
such occurrence reports as 'he did it recklessly' and 'he did it on 
purpose' have to be elucidated not as differences between simple 
and composite occurrence reports, but in quite another way. 

Knowing how, then, is a disposition, but not a single-track 
disposition like a reflex or a habit. Its exercises are observances of 
rules or canons or the applications of criteria, but they are not 
tandem operations of theoretically avowing maxims and then 
putting them into practice. Further, its exercises can be overt or 


covert, deeds performed or deeds imagined, words spoken aloud or 
words heard in one's head, pictures painted on canvas or pictures 
in the mind's eye. Or they can be amalgamations of the two. 

These points may be jointly illustrated by describing what 
happens when a person argues intelligently. There is a special point 
in selecting this example, since so much has been made of the 
rationality of man; and part, though only part, of what people 
understand by 'rational' is 'capable of reasoning cogently'. 

First, it makes no important difference whether we think of the 
reasoner as arguing to himself or arguing aloud, pleading, perhaps, 
before an imagined court or pleading before a real court. The 
criteria by which his arguments are to be adjudged as cogent, clear, 
relevant and well organised are the same for silent as for declaimed 
or written ratiocinations. Silent argumentation has the practical 
advantages of being relatively speedy, socially undisturbing and 
secret; audible and written argumentation has the advantage of being 
less slap-dash, through being subjected to the criticisms of the 
audience and readers. But the same qualities of intellect are exercised 
in both, save that special schooling is required to inculcate the trick 
of reasoning in silent soliloquy. 

Next, although there may occur a few stages in his argument 
which are so trite that he can go through them by rote, much of his 
argument is likely never to have been constructed before. He has 
to meet new objections, interpret new evidence and make connec- 
tions between elements in the situation which had not previously 
been co-ordinated. In short he has to innovate, and where he 
innovates he is not operating from habit. He is not repeating 
hackneyed moves. That he is now thinking what he is doing is 
shown not only by this fact that he is operating without precedents, 
but also by the fact that he is ready to recast his expression of 
obscurely put points, on guard against ambiguities or else on the 
look out for chances to exploit them, taking care not to rely on 
easily refutable inferences, alert in meeting objections and resolute 
in steering the general course of his reasoning in the direction of 
his final goal. It will be argued later that all these words 'ready', 
'on guard', 'careful', 'on the look out' and 'resolute' are semi- 
dispositional, semi-episodic words. They do not signify the 
concomitant occurrence of extra but internal operations, nor mere 
capacities and tendencies to perform further operations if the need 


for them should arise, but something between the two. The careful 
driver is not actually imagining or planning for all of the countless 
contingencies that might crop up; nor is he merely competent to 
recognise and cope with any one of them, if it should arise. He has 
not foreseen the runaway donkey, yet he is not unprepared for it. 
His readiness to cope with such emergencies would show itself 
in the operations he would perform, if they were to occur. But it 
also actually does show itself by the ways in which he converses 
and handles his controls even when nothing critical is taking place. 

Underlying all the other features of the operations executed by 
the intelligent reasoner there is the cardinal feature that he reasons 
logically, that is, that he avoids fallacies and produces valid proofs 
and inferences, pertinent to the case he is making. He observes the 
rules of logic, as well as those of style, forensic strategy, professional 
etiquette and the rest. But he probably observes the rules of 
logic without thinking about them. He does not cite Aristotle's 
formulae to himself or to the court. He applies in his practice what 
Aristotle abstracted in his theory of such practices. He reasons with 
a correct method, but without considering the prescriptions of a 
methodology. The rules that he observes have become his way of 
thinking, when he is taking care; they are not external rubrics 
with which he has to square his thoughts. In a word, he conducts 
his operation efficiently, and to operate efficiently is not to perform 
two operations. It is to perform one operation in a certain manner 
or with a certain style or procedure, and the description of this 
modus operandi has to be in terms of such semi-dispositional, semi- 
episodic epithets as 'alert', 'careful', 'critical', 'ingenious', 'logical', 

What is true of arguing intelligently is, with appropriate 
modifications, true of other intelligent operations. The boxer, the 
surgeon, the poet and the salesman apply their special criteria in 
the performance of their special tasks, for they are trying to get 
things right; and they are appraised as clever, skilful, inspired or 
shrewd not for the ways in which they consider, if they consider 
at all, prescriptions for conducting their special performances, but 
for the ways in which they conduct those performances themselves. 
Whether or not the boxer plans his manoeuvres before executing 
them, his cleverness at boxing is decided in the light of how he 
fights. If he is a Hamlet of the ring, he will be condemned as an 


inferior fighter, though perhaps a brilliant theorist or critic. 
Cleverness at fighting is exhibited in the giving and parrying of 
blows, not in the acceptance or rejection of propositions about 
blows, just as ability at reasoning is exhibited in the construction 
of valid arguments and the detection of fallacies, not in the avowal 
of logicians' formulae. Nor does the surgeon's skill function in his 
tongue uttering medical truths but only in his hands making the 
correct movements. 

All this is meant not to deny or depreciate the value of intellectual 
operations, but only to deny that the execution of intelligent 
performances entails the additional execution of intellectual opera- 
tions. It will be shown later (in Chapter IX), that the learning of all 
but the most unsophisticated knacks requires some intellectual 
capacity. The ability to do things in accordance with instructions 
necessitates understanding those instructions. So some propositional 
competence is a condition of acquiring any of these com- 
petences. But it does not follow that exercises of these com- 
petences require to be accompanied by exercises of propositional 
competences. I could not have learned to swim the breast stroke, 
if I had not been able to understand the lessons given me in that 
stroke; but I do not have to recite those lessons, when I now swim 
the breast stroke. 

A man knowing little or nothing of medical science could not 
be a good surgeon, but excellence at surgery is not the same thing 
as knowledge of medical science; nor is it a simple product of it. 
The surgeon must indeed have learned from instruction, or by his 
own inductions and observations, a great number of truths; but he 
must also have learned by practice a great number of aptitudes. 
Even where efficient practice is the deliberate application of 
considered prescriptions, the intelligence involved in putting the 
prescriptions into practice is not identical with that involved in 
intellectually grasping the prescriptions. There is no contradiction, 
or even paradox, in describing someone as bad at practising what he 
is good at preaching. There have been thoughtful and original 
literary critics who have formulated admirable canons of prose style 
in execrable prose. There have been others who have employed 
brilliant English in the expression of the silliest theories of what 
constitutes good writing. 

The central point that is being laboured in this chapter is of 


considerable importance. It is an attack from one flank upon 
the category-mistake which underlies the dogma of the ghost in 
the machine. In unconscious reliance upon this dogma theorists 
and laymen alike constantly construe the adjectives by which we 
characterise performances as ingenious, wise, methodical, careful, 
witty, etc. as signalising the occurrence in someone's hidden 
stream of consciousness of special processes functioning as ghostly 
harbingers or more specifically as occult causes of the performances 
so characterised. They postulate an internal shadow-performance to 
be the real carrier of the intelligence ordinarily ascribed to the 
overt act, and think that in this way they explain what makes the 
overt act a manifestation of intelligence. They have described 
the overt act as an effect of a mental happening, though they stop 
short, of course, before raising the next question what makes 
the postulated mental happenings manifestations of intelligence 
and not mental deficiency. 

In opposition to this entire dogma, I am arguing that in des- 
cribing the workings of a person's mind we are not describing a 
second set of shadowy operations. We are describing certain phases 
of his one career; namely we arc describing the ways in which parts 
of his conduct are managed. The sense in which we 'explain' his 
actions is not that we infer to occult causes, but that we subsume 
under hypothetical and semi-hypothetical propositions. The 
explanation is not of the type 'the glass broke because a stone hit 
it', but more nearly of the different type 'the glass broke when the 
stone hit it, because it was brittle'. It makes no difference in theory 
if the performances we are appraising are operations executed 
silently in the agent's head, such as what he does, when duly schooled 
to it, in theorising, composing limericks or solving anagrams. Of 
course it makes a lot of difference in practice, for the examiner 
cannot award marks to operations which the candidate successfully 
keeps to himself. 

But when a person talks sense aloud, ties knots, feints or sculpts, 
the actions which we witness are themselves the things which he is 
intelligently doing, though the concepts in terms of which the 
physicist or physiologist would describe his actions do not exhaust 
those which would be used by his pupils or his teachers in appraising 
their logic, style or technique. He is bodily active and he is mentally 
active, but he is not being synchronously active in two different 


'places', or with two different 'engines'. There is the one activity, 
but it is one susceptible of and requiring more than one kind of 
explanatory description. Somewhat as there is no aerodynamical 
or physiological difference between the description of one bird as 
'flying south' and of another as 'migrating', though there is a big 
biological difference between these descriptions, so there need be 
no physical or physiological differences between the descriptions of 
one man as gabbling and another talking sense, though the 
rhetorical and logical differences are enormous. 

The statement 'the mind is its own place', as theorists might 
construe it, is not true, for the mind is not even a metaphorical 
'place'. On the contrary, the chessboard, the platform, the scholar's 
desk, the judge's bench, the lorry-driver's seat, the studio and the 
football field are among its places. These are where people work 
and play stupidly or intelligently. 'Mind' is not the name of another 
person, working or frolicking behind an impenetrable screen; it 
is not the name of another place where work is done or games are 
played; and it is not the name of another tool with which work is 
done, or another appliance with which games are played. 

(9) Understanding and Misunderstanding 

It is being maintained throughout this book that when we 
characterise people by mental predicates, we are not making 
untestable inferences to any ghostly processes occurring in streams 
of consciousness which we are debarred from visiting; we are 
describing the ways in which those people conduct parts of their 
predominantly public behaviour. True, we go beyond what we 
see them do and hear them say, but this going beyond is not a going 
behind, in the sense of making inferences to occult causes; it is 
going beyond in the sense of considering, in the first instance, the 
powers and* propensities of which their actions are exercises. But 
this point requires expansion. 

A person who cannot play chess can still watch games of chess. 
He sees the moves being made as clearly as does his neighbour who 
knows the game. But the spectator who does not know the game 
cannot do what his neighbour does appreciate the stupidity or 
cleverness of the players. Wh^t is this difference between merely 
witnessing a performance and understanding what is witnessed? 
What, to take another example, is the difference between hearing 


what a speaker says and making sense of what he is heard to say? 

Advocates of the double-life legend will answer that tinder- 
standing the chess-player's moves consists in inferring from the 
visible moves made on the board to unwitnessable operations 
taking place on the player's private stage. It is a process of inference 
analogous to that by which we infer from the seen movements of 
the railway-signals to the unseen manipulations of the levers in the 
signal-box. Yet this answer promises something that could never 
be fulfilled. For since, according to the theory, one person cannot 
in principle visit another person's mind as he can visit signal-boxes, 
there could be no way of establishing the necessary correlation 
between the overt moves and their hidden causal counterparts. The 
analogy of the signal-box breaks down in another place. The 
connections between levers and signal-arms are easy to discover. 
The mechanical principles of the fulcrum and the pulley, and the 
behaviour of metals in tension and compression are, at least in 
outline, familiar to us all. We know well enough how the machinery 
inside the signal-box works, how that outside the signal-box works 
and how the two are mechanically coupled. But it is admitted by 
those who believe in the legend of the ghost in the machine that 
no one yet knows much about the laws governing the supposed 
workings of the mind, while the postulated interactions between 
the workings of the mind and the movements of the hand are 
acknowledged to be completely mysterious. Enjoying neither the 
supposed status of the mental, nor the supposed status of the physical, 
these interactions cannot be expected to obey either the known laws 
of physics, or the still to be discovered laws of psychology. 

It would follow that no one has ever yet had the slightest 
understanding of what anyone else has ever said or done. We read 
the words which Euclid wrote and we are familiar with the things 
which Napoleon did, but we have not the slightest idea what they 
had in their minds. Nor has any spectator of a chess tournament or a 
football match ever yet had an inkling of what the players were 

But this is patently absurd. Anybody who can play chess already 
understands a good deal of what other players do, and a brief study 
of geometry enables an ordinary Jboy to follow a good deal of 
Euclid's reasoning. Nor does this understanding require a prolonged 
grounding in the not yet established laws of psychology. Following 


the moves made by a chess-player is not doing anything remotely 
resembling problematic psychological diagnosis. Indeed, supposing 
that one person could understand another's words or actions only 
in so far as he made causal inferences in accordance with psychological 
laws, the queer consequence would follow that if any psychologist 
had discovered these laws, he could never have conveyed his 
discoveries to his fellow men. For ex hypothesi they could not follow 
his exposition of them without inferring in accordance with them 
from his words to his thoughts. 

No one feels happy with the view that for one person to follow 
what another person says or does is to make inferences somewhat 
like those made by a water-diviner from the perceived twitching 
of the twig to the subterranean flow of water. So the consolatory 
amendment is sometimes made that, since a person is directly aware 
of the correlations between his own private experiences and his 
own overt actions, he can understand the performances of others 
by imputing to them a similar correlation. Understanding is still 
psychological divining, but it is divination reinforced by analogies 
from the diviner's direct observation of the correlations between 
his own inner and outer lives. But this amendment does not abolish 
the difficulty. 

It will be argued later that a person's appraisals of his own 
performances do not differ in kind from his appraisals of those of 
others, but for the present purpose it is enough to say that, even if 
a person did enjoy a privileged illumination in the ascription of 
mental-conduct concepts to his own performances, his supposed 
analogical argument to the mental processes of others would be 
completely fallacious. 

If someone has inspected a number of railway-signals and signal- 
boxes, he can then in a new case make a good probable inference 
from observed signal-movements to unobserved lever-movements. 
But if he had examined only one signal-box and knew nothing 
about the standardisation-methods of large corporations, his 
inference would be pitiably weak, for it would be a wide generalisa- 
tion based on a single instance. Further, one signal-arm is closely 
similar to another in appearance and movements, so the inference 
to a correspondingly close similarity between the mechanisms 
housed in different signal-boxes has some strength. But the observed 
appearances and actions of people differ very markedly, so the 


imputation to them of inner processes closely matching one another 
would be actually contrary to the evidence. 

Understanding a person's deeds and words is not, therefore, any 
kind of problematic divination of occult processes. For this divina- 
tion does not and cannot occur, whereas understanding does occur. 
Of course it is part of my general thesis that the supposed occult 
processes are themselves mythical; there exists nothing to be the 
object of the postulated diagnoses. But for the present purpose it 
is enough to prove that, if there were such inner states and operations, 
one person would not be able to make probable inferences to their 
occurrence in the inner life of another. 

If understanding does not consist in inferring, or guessing, the 
alleged inner-life precursors of overt actions, what is it? If it does 
not require mastery of psychological theory together with the 
ability to apply it, what knowledge does it require ? We saw that a 
spectator who cannot play chess also cannot follow the play of 
others; a person who cannot read or speak Swedish cannot under- 
stand what is spoken or written in Swedish; and a person whose 
reasoning powers are weak is bad at following and retaining the 
arguments of others. Understanding is a part of knowing how. The 
knowledge that is required for understanding intelligent perform- 
ances of a specific kind is some degree of competence in performances 
of that kind. The competent critic of prose-style, experimental 
technique, or embroidery, must at least know how to write, experi- 
ment or sew. Whether or not he has also learned some psychology 
matters about as much as whether he has learned any chemistry, 
neurology or economics. These studies may in certain circumstances 
assist his appreciation of what he is criticising; but the one necessary 
condition is that he has some mastery of the art or procedure, 
examples of which he is to appraise. For one person to see the 
jokes that another makes, the one thing he must have is a sense of 
humour and even that special brand of sense of humour of which 
those jokes are exercises. 

Of course, to execute an operation intelligently is not exactly 
the same thing as to follow its execution intelligently. The agent 
is originating, the spectator is only contemplating. But the rules 
which the agent observes and the criteria which he applies are one 
with those which goveni the spectator's applause and jeers. The 
commentator on Plato's philosophy need not possess much philo- 


sophic originality, but if he cannot, as too many commentators 
cannot, appreciate the force, drift or motive of a philosophical 
argument, his comments will be worthless. If he can appreciate 
them, then he knows how to do part of what Plato knew how to do. 

If I am competent to judge your performance, then in witnessing 
it I am on the alert to detect mistakes and muddles in it, but so are 
you in executing it; I am ready to notice the advantages you might 
take of pieces of luck, but so are you. You learn as you proceed, 
and I too learn as you proceed. The intelligent performer operates 
critically, the intelligent spectator follows critically. Roughly, 
execution and understanding are merely different exercises of 
knowledge of the tricks of the same trade. You exercise your 
knowledge how to tie a clove-hitch not only in acts of tying 
clove-hitches and in correcting your mistakes, but also in imagining 
tying them correctly, in instructing pupils, in criticising the incorrect 
or clumsy movements and applauding the correct movements that 
they make, in inferring from a faulty result to the error which 
produced it, in predicting the outcomes of observed lapses, and so on 
indefinitely. The words 'understanding' and 'following* designate 
certain of those exercises of your knowledge how, which you 
execute without having, for example, any string in your hand. 

It should by now be otiose to point out that this does not imply 
that the spectator or reader, in following what is done or written, 
is making analogical inferences from internal processes of his own to 
corresponding internal processes in the author of the actions or 
writings. Nor need he, though he may, imaginatively represent 
himself as being in the shoes, the situation and the skin of the author. 
He is merely thinking what the author is doing along the same 
lines as those on which the author is thinking what he is doing, 
save that the spectator is finding what the author is inventing. The 
author is leading and the spectator is following, but their path is 
the same. Nor, again, docs this account of understanding require 
or encourage us to postulate any mysterious electric sympathies 
between kindred souls. Whether or not the hearts of two chess- 
players beat as one, which they will not do if they are opponents, 
their ability to follow one another's play depends not on this 
valvular coincidence but upo^ji their competence at chess, their 
interest in this game and their acquired familiarity with one another's 
methods of playing. 


This point, that the capacity to appreciate a performance is 
one in type with the capacity to execute it, illustrates a contention 
previously argued, namely that intelligent capacities are not single- 
track dispositions, but are dispositions admitting of a wide variety 
of more or less dissimilar exercises. It is however necessary to make 
two provisos. First, the capacity to perform and to appreciate an 
operation does not necessarily involve the ability to formulate 
criticisms or lessons. A well-trained sailor boy can both tie complex 
knots and discern whether someone else is tying them correctly or 
incorrectly, deftly or clumsily. But he is probably incapable of the 
difficult task of describing in words how the knots should be tied. 
And, second, the ability to appreciate a performance does not 
involve the same degree of competence as the ability to execute it. 
It does not take genius to recognise genius, and a good dramatic 
critic may be indifferent as an actor or playwright. There would 
be no teachers or pupils if the ability to understand operations 
required complete ability to perform them. Pupils are taught how 
to do things by people who know better than they how to do them. 
Euclid's Elements are neither a sealed, nor an open, book to the 

One feature in this account of understanding has been grasped, 
though from the wrong end, by certain philosophers who have 
tried to explain how an historian, scholar or literary critic can 
understand the deeds or words of his subjects. Adhering without 
question to the dogma of the ghost in the machine, these philo- 
sophers were naturally perplexed by the pretensions of historians 
to interpret the actions and words of historic personages as 
expressions of their actual thoughts, feelings and intentions. For if 
minds are impenetrable to one another, how can historians penetrate 
the minds of their heroes ? Yet if such penetration is impossible, the 
labours of all scholars, critics and historians must be vain; they may 
describe the signals, but they can never begin to interpret them as 
effects of operations in the eternally sealed signal-boxes. 

These philosophers have put forward the following solution of 
their spurious puzzle. Though I cannot witness the workings of 
your mind or Plato's mind, but only the overt actions and written 
words which I take to be outwyd 'expressions' of those inner 
workings, I can, with due effort and practice, deliberately enact 
such operations in my own private theatre as would naturally 


originate just such actions and words. I can think private thoughts 
of my own which would be well expressed by the sentences ascribed 
to Plato's hand, and I can, in fact or in fancy, execute volitions of 
my own which originate or would originate actions like those which 
I have witnessed you performing. Having put myself into a frame 
of mind in which I act like you, or write like Plato, I can then 
impute to you and to him similar frames of mind. If this imputation 
is correct, then, from knowing what it is like for me to be in the 
frame of mind which issues in these actions and words, I can also 
know what it was like to be Plato writing his Dialogues and what it 
is like to be you, tying, perhaps, a clove-hitch. By re-enacting your 
overt actions I re-live your private experiences. In a fashion, the 
student of Plato makes himself a second Plato, a sort of re-author 
of his Dialogues, and thus and only thus he understands those 

Unfortunately this programme of mimicking Plato's mental 
processes can never be wholly successful. I am, after all, a twentieth- 
century English student of Plato, a tiling which Plato never was. 
My culture, schooling, language, habits and interests are different 
from his and this must impair the fidelity of my mimicry of his 
frame of mind and therefore the success of my attempts to under- 
stand him. Still, it is argued, this is, in the nature of the case, the 
best that I can do. Understanding must be imperfect. Only by really 
being Plato could I really understand him. 

Some holders of theories of this type add extra comforts to it. 
Though minds are inaccessible to one another, they may be said to 
resonate, like tuning-forks, in harmony with one another, though 
unfortunately they would never know it. I cannot literally share 
your experiences, but some of our experiences may somehow chime 
together, though we cannot be aware of their doing so, in a manner 
which almost amounts to genuine communion. In the- most 
fortunate cases we may resemble two incurably deaf men singing 
in tune and in time with one another. But we need not dwell on 
such embellishments to a theory which is radically false. 

For this theory is just another unsuccessful attempt to wriggle 
out of a perfectly mythical dilemma. It assumes that understanding 
would have to consist in contemplating the unknowable workings 
of insulated ghosts and tries to remedy this trouble by saying that, 
in default of such knowledge, I can do nearly as well by con- 


templating such ghostly operations of my own as would naturally 
issue in overt 'expressions' similar to those of the persons whom I 
wish to understand. But this involves a further unwarrantable but 
interesting assumption, namely that to similar overt deeds and 
words there always correspond similar internal processes, an 
assumption which is, according to the theory itself, completely 
untestable. It assumes, also quite improperly, that it follows from 
the fact that I go through certain internal processes that I must 
perfectly appreciate them for what they are, i.e. that I cannot mis- 
construe, or be puzzled by, anything that goes on in my own stream 
of consciousness. In short, this whole theory is a variant of the 
doctrine that understanding consists in problematic causal divination, 
reinforced by a weak analogical argument. 

What makes the theory worth discussing is that it partly avoids 
equating understanding with psychological diagnosis, i.e. with 
causal inferences from overt behaviour to mental process in 
accordance with laws yet to be discovered by psychologists; and 
it avoids this equation by making an assumption to which it is not 
entitled but which is on the edge of the truth. It assumes that 
the qualities of people's minds are reflected in the tilings that they 
overtly say and do. So historians and scholars in studying the 
styles and procedures of literary and practical activities are on the 
right track; it is, according to the theory, just their inescapable 
misfortune that this track terminates in the chasm separating the 
'physical* from the 'mental', the 'overt' from the 'inner'. Now, had 
the holders of this theory seen that the styles and procedures of 
people's activities are the way their minds work and are not merely 
imperfect reflections of the postulated secret processes which were 
supposed to be the workings of minds, their dilemma would have 
evaporated. The claims of historians and scholars to be able in 
principle to understand what their subjects did and wrote would 
have been automatically vindicated. It is not they who have been 
studying shadows. 

Overt intelligent performances are not clues to the workings of 
minds; they are those workings. Boswell described Johnson's mind 
when he described how he wrote, talked, ate, fidgeted and fumed. His 
description was, of course, incomplete, since there were notoriously 
some thoughts which Johnson kepi carefully to himself and there 
must have been many dreams, daydreams and silent babblings 


which only Johnson could have recorded and only a James Joyce 
would wish him to have recorded. 

Before we conclude this inquiry into understanding, something 
must be said about partial understanding and misunderstanding. 

Attention has already been drawn to certain parallelisms and 
certain non-parallelisms between the concept of knowing that and 
the concept of knowing how. A further non-parallelism must now 
be noticed. We never speak of a person having partial knowledge 
of a fact or truth, save in the special sense of his having knowledge 
of a part of a body of facts or truths. A boy can be said to have 
partial knowledge of the counties of England, if he knows some of 
them and does not know others. But he could not be said to have 
incomplete knowledge of Sussex being an English county. Either 
he knows this fact or he does not know it. On the other hand, it 
is proper and normal to speak of a person knowing in part how 
to do something, i.e. of his having a particular capacity in a 
limited degree. An ordinary chess-player knows the game pretty 
well but a champion knows it better, and even the champion has 
still much to learn. 

This holds too, as we should now expect, of understanding. An 
ordinary chess-player can partly follow the tactics and strategy of a 
champion; perhaps after much study he will completely understand 
the methods used by the champion in certain particular matches. 
But he can never wholly anticipate how the champion will fight 
his next contest and he is never as quick or sure in his interpretations 
of the champion's moves as the champion is in making or, perhaps, 
in explaining them. 

Learning how or improving in ability is not like learning that 
or acquiring information. Truths can be imparted, procedures can 
only be inculcated, and while inculcation is a gradual process, 
imparting is relatively sudden. It makes sense to ask at what moment 
someone became apprised of a truth, but not to ask at what moment 
someone acquired a skill. 'Part-trained' is a significant phrase, 
'part-informed' is not. Training is the art of setting tasks which 
the pupils have not yet accomplished but arc not any longer quite 
incapable of accomplishing. 

The notion of misunderstanding raises no general theoretical 
difficulties. When the card-player's tactics are misconstrued by his 
opponents, the manoeuvre they think they discern is indeed a 


possible manoeuvre of the game, though it happens not to be his 
manoeuvre. Only someone who knew the game could interpret the 
play as part of the execution of the supposed manoeuvre. Mis- 
understanding is a by-product of knowing how. Only a person 
who is at least a partial master of the Russian tongue can make the 
wrong sense of a Russian expression. Mistakes are exercises of 

Misinterpretations are not always due to the inexpertness or 
carelessness of the spectator; they are due sometimes to the careless- 
ness and sometimes to the cunning of the agent or speaker. 
Sometimes, again, both are exercising all due skill and care, but it 
happens that the operations performed, or the words spoken, could 
actually be constituents of two or more different undertakings. The 
first ten motions made in tying one knot might be identical with 
the first ten motions required for tying another, or a set of premisses 
suitable for establishing one conclusion might be equally suitable 
for establishing another. The onlooker's misinterpretation may then 
be acute and well-grounded. It is careless only in being premature. 
Feinting is the art of exploiting this possibility. 

It is obvious that where misunderstanding is possible, under- 
standing is possible. It would be absurd to suggest that perhaps we 
always misconstrue the performances that we witness, for we could 
not even learn to misconstrue save in learning to construe, a 
learning process which involves learning not to misconstrue. 
Misinterpretations are in principle corrigible, which is part of the 
value of controversy. 

(10) Solipsism 

Contemporary philosophers have exercised themselves with the 
problem of our knowledge of other minds. Enmeshed in the dogma 
of the ghost in the machine, they have found it impossible to 
discover any logically satisfactory evidence warranting one person 
in believing that there exist minds other than his own. I can witness 
what your body does, but I cannot witness what your mind docs, 
and my pretensions to infer from what your body does to what 
your mind does all collapse, since the premisses for such inferences 
are either inadequate or unknowable. 

We can now see our way out of the supposed difficulty. I 
discover that there are other minds in understanding what other 


people say and do. In making sense of what you say, in appreciating 
your jokes, in unmasking your chess-stratagems, in following your 
arguments and in hearing you pick holes in my arguments, I am 
not inferring to the workings of your mind, I am following them. 
Of course, I am not merely hearing the noises that you make, or 
merely seeing the movements that you perform. I am under- 
standing what I hear and see. But this understanding is not inferring 
to occult causes. It is appreciating how the operations are conducted, 
To find that most people have minds (though idiots and infants 
in arms do not) is simply to find that they are able and prone to do 
certain sorts of things, and this we do by witnessing the sorts of 
things they do. Indeed we do not merely discover that there are 
other minds; we discover what specific qualities of intellect and 
character particular people have. In fact we are familiar with such 
specific matters long before we can comprehend such general 
propositions as that John Doe has a mind, or that there exist minds 
other than our own; just as we know that stones are hard and 
sponges are soft, kittens are warm and active, potatoes are cold and 
inert, long before we can grasp the proposition that kittens are 
material objects, or that matter exists. 

Certainly there are some things which I can find out about you 
only, or best, through being told of them by you. The oculist has 
to ask his client what letters he sees with his right and left eyes 
and how clearly he sees them; the doctor has to ask the sufferer 
where the pain is and what sort of a pain it is; and the psycho- 
analyst has to ask his patient about his dreams and daydreams. If 
you do not divulge the contents of your silent soliloquies and other 
imaginings, I have no other sure way of finding out what you have 
been saying or picturing to yourself. But the sequence of your 
sensations and imaginings is not the sole field in which your wits and 
character are shown; perhaps only for lunatics is it more than a small 
corner of that field. I find out most of what I want to know about 
your capacities, interests, likes, dislikes, methods and convictions by 
observing how you conduct your overt doings, of which by far 
the most important are your sayings and writings. It is a subsidiary 
question how you conduct your imaginings, including your 
imagined monologues. 



(1) Foreword. 

MOST of the mental-conduct concepts whose logical behaviour 
we examine in this book, are familiar and everyday concepts. We 
all know how to apply them and we understand other people when 
they apply them. What is in dispute is not how to apply them, 
but how to classify them, or in what categories to put them. 

The concept of volition is in a different case. We do not know 
in daily life how to use it, for we do not use it in daily life and do 
not, consequently, learn by practice how to apply it, atnd how not to 
misapply it. It is an artificial concept. We have to study certain 
specialist theories in order to find out how it is to be manipulated. 
It does not, of course, follow from its being a technical concept 
that it is an illegitimate or useless concept. 'lonisation' and 'off-side 
are technical concepts, but both are legitimate and useful. 'Phlogiston" 
and 'animal spirits' were technical concepts, though they have now 
no utility. 

I hope to show that the concept of volition belongs to the latter 

(2) The Myth of Volitions. 

It has for a long time been taken for an indisputable axiom that 
the Mind is in some important sense tripartite, that is, that there 
are just three ultimate classes of mental processes. The Mind or 
Soul, we are often told, has three parts, namely, Thought, Feeling 
and Will; or, more solemnly, the Mind or Soul functions in three 
irreducibly different modes, the Cognitive mode, the Emotional 
mode and the Conative mode. This traditional dogma is not only 
not self-evident, it is such a welter of confusions and false inferences 
that it is best to give up any attenfpt to re-fashion it. It should be 
treated as one of the curios of theory. 



The main object of this chapter is not, however, to discuss the 
whole trinitarian theory of mind but to discuss, and discuss 
destructively, one of its ingredients. I hope to refute the doctrine 
that there exists a Faculty, immaterial Organ, or Ministry, corres- 
ponding to the theory's description of the 'Will' and, accordingly, 
that there occur processes, or operations, corresponding to what it 
describes as Volitions'. I must however make it clear from the start 
that this refutation will not invalidate the distinctions which we all 
quite properly draw between voluntary and involuntary actions and 
between strong-willed and weak-willed persons. It will, on the 
contrary, make clearer what is meant by Voluntary' and 'involun- 
tary', by 'strong-willed' and 'weak-willed', by emancipating these 
ideas from bondage to an absurd hypothesis. 

Volitions have been postulated as special acts, or operations, 'in 
the mind', by means of which a mind gets its ideas translated into 
facts. I think of some state of affairs which I wish to come into 
existence in the physical world, but, as my thinking and wishing are 
unexecutive, they require the mediation of a further executive 
mental process. So I perform a volition which somehow puts my 
muscles into action. Only when a bodily movement has issued from 
such a volition can I merit praise or blame for what my hand or 
tongue has done. 

It will be clear why I reject this story. It is just an inevitable 
extension of the myth of the ghost in the machine. It assumes that 
there are mental states and processes enjoying one sort of existence, 
and bodily states and processes enjoying another. An occurrence 
on the one stage is never numerically identical with an occurrence 
on the other. So, to say that a person pulled the trigger intentionally 
is to express at least a conjunctive proposition, asserting the 
occurrence of one act on the physical stage and another on the 
mental stage; and, according to most versions of the myth, it is to 
express a causal proposition, asserting that the bodily act of pulling 
the trigger was the effect of a mental act of willing to pull the 

According to the theory, the workings of the body are motions 
of matter in space. The causes of these motions must then be either 
other motions of matter in space ftr, in the privileged case of human 
beings, thrusts of another kind. In some way which must forever 
remain a mystery, mental thrusts, which are not movements of 


matter in space, can cause muscles to contract. To describe a man as 
intentionally pulling the trigger is to state that such a mental thrust 
did cause the contraction of the muscles of his finger. So the language 
of Volitions' is the language of the para-mechanical theory of the 
mind. If a theorist speaks without qualms of Volitions', or 'acts of 
will', no further evidence is needed to show that he swallows whole 
the dogma that a mind is a secondary field of special causes. It 
can be predicted that he will correspondingly speak of bodily 
actions as 'expressions' of mental processes. He is likely also to 
speak glibly of 'experiences', a plural noun commonly used to 
denote the postulated non-physical episodes which constitute the 
shadow-drama on the ghostly boards of the mental stage. 

The first objection to the doctrine that overt actions, to which 
we ascribe intelligence-predicates, are results of counterpart hidden 
operations of willing is this. Despite the fact that theorists have, 
since the Stoics and Saint Augustine, recommended us to describe 
our conduct in this way, no one, save to endorse the theory, ever 
describes his own conduct, or that of his acquaintances, in the 
recommended idioms. No one ever says such things as that at 
10 a.m. he was occupied in willing this or that, or that he performed 
five quick and easy volitions and two slow and difficult volitions 
between midday and lunch-time. An accused person may admit or 
deny that he did something, or that he did it on purpose, but he 
never admits or denies having willed. Nor do the judge and jury 
require to be satisfied by evidence, which in the nature of the case 
could never be adduced, that a volition preceded the pulling of the 
trigger. Novelists describe the actions, remarks, gestures and 
grimaces, the daydreams, deliberations, qualms and embarrassments 
of their characters; but they never mention their volitions. They 
would not know what to say about them. 

By what sorts of predicates should they be described? Can they 
be sudden or gradual, strong or weak, difficult or easy, enjoyable 
or disagreeable? Can they be accelerated, decelerated, interrupted, 
or suspended? Can people be efficient or inefficient at them? Can 
we take lessons in executing them ? Are they fatiguing or distracting ? 
Can I do two or seven of them synchronously? Can I remember 
executing them? Can I execute them, while thinking of other 
things, or while dreaming? Can they become habitual? Can 
I forget how to do them? Can I mistakenly believe that I have 


executed one, when I have not, or that I have not executed one, when 
I have? At which moment was the boy going through a volition 
to take the high dive? When he set foot on the ladder? When he 
took his first deep breath? When he counted off 'One, two, three 
Go', but did not go? Very, very shortly before he sprang? What 
would his own answer be to those questions ? 

Champions of the doctrine maintain, of course, that the 
enactment of volitions is asserted by implication, whenever an overt 
act is described as intentional, voluntary, culpable or meritorious; 
they assert too that any person is not merely able but bound to 
know that he is willing when he is doing so, since volitions are 
defined as a species of conscious process. So if ordinary men and 
women fail to mention their volitions in their descriptions of their 
own behaviour, this must be due to their being untrained in the 
dictions appropriate to the description of their inner, as distinct from 
their overt, behaviour. However, when a champion of the doctrine 
is himself asked how long ago he executed his last volition, or how 
many acts of will he executes in, say, reciting 'Little Miss Muffet' 
backwards, he is apt to confess to finding difficulties in giving the 
answer, though these difficulties should not, according to his own 
theory, exist. 

If ordinary men never report the occurrence of these acts, for 
all that, according to the theory, they should be encountered vastly 
more frequently than headaches, or feelings of boredom; if ordinary 
vocabulary has no non-academic names for them; if we do not know 
how to settle simple questions about their frequency, duration or 
strength, then it is fair to conclude that their existence is not asserted 
on empirical grounds. The fact that Plato and Aristotle never 
mentioned them in their frequent and elaborate discussions of the 
nature of the soul and the springs of conduct is due not to any 
perverse neglect by them of notorious ingredients of daily life but 
to the historical circumstance that they were not acquainted with a 
special hypothesis the acceptance of which rests not on the discovery, 
but on the postulation, of these ghostly thrusts. 

The second objection is this. It is admitted that one person can 
never witness the volitions of another; he can only infer from an 
observed overt action to the \jolition from which it resulted, and 
then only if he has any good reason to believe that the overt action 
was a voluntary action, and not a reflex or habitual action, or one 


resulting from some external cause. It follows that no judge, 
schoolmaster, or parent ever knows that the actions which he 
judges merit praise or blame; for he cannot do better than guess 
that the action was willed. Even a confession by the agent, if such 
confessions were ever made, that he had executed a! volition before 
his hand did the deed would not settle the question. The 
pronouncement of the confession is only another overt muscular 
action. The curious conclusion results that though volitions were 
called in to explain our appraisals of actions, this explanation is 
just what they fail to provide. If we had no other antecedent 
grounds for applying appraisal-concepts to the actions of others, 
we should have no reasons at all for inferring from those actions 
to the volitions alleged to give rise to them. 

Nor could it be maintained that the agent himself can know that 
any overt action of his own is the effect of a given volition. 
Supposing, what is not the case, that he could know for certain, 
either from the alleged direct deliverances of consciousness, or from 
the alleged direct findings of introspection, that he had executed an 
act of will to pull the trigger just before he pulled it, this would 
not prove that the pulling was the effect of that willing. The 
connection between volitions and movements is allowed to be 
mysterious, so, for all he knows, his volition may have had some 
other movement as its effect and the pulling of the trigger may have 
had some other event for its cause. 

Thirdly, it would be improper to burke the point that the 
connection between volition and movement is admitted to be a 
mystery. It is a mystery not of the unsolved but soluble type, like 
the problem of the cause of cancer, but of quite another type. 
The episodes supposed to constitute the careers of minds are assumed 
to have one sort of existence, while those constituting the careers 
of bodies have another sort; and no bridge-status is allowed. 
Transactions between minds and bodies involve links where no 
links can be. That there should be any causal transactions between 
minds and matter conflicts with one part, that there should be none 
conflicts with another part of the theory. Minds, as the whole legend 
describes them, are what must exist if there is to be a causal 
explanation of the intelligent behaviour of human bodies; and 
minds, as the legend describes them, live on a floor of existence 
defined as being outside the causal system to which bodies belong. 


Fourthly, although the prime function of volitions, the task 
for the performance of which they were postulated, is to originate 
bodily movements, the argument, such as it is, for their existence 
entails that some mental happenings also must result from acts of 
will. Volitions were postulated to be that which makes actions 
voluntary, resolute, meritorious and wicked. But predicates of 
these sorts are ascribed not only to bodily movements but also to 
operations which, according to the theory, are mental and not 
physical operations. A thinker may ratiocinate resolutely, or imagine 
wickedly; he may try to compose a limerick and he may 
meritoriously concentrate on his algebra. Some mental processes 
then can, according to the theory, issue from volitions. So what of 
volitions themselves? Are they voluntary or involuntary acts of 
mind? Clearly either answer leads to absurdities. If I cannot help 
willing to pull the trigger, it would be absurd to describe my 
pulling it as Voluntary'. But if my volition to pull the trigger is 
voluntary, in the sense assumed by the theory, then it must issue 
from a prior volition and that from another ad itifinitum. It has been 
suggested, to avoid this difficulty, that volitions cannot be described 
as cither voluntary or involuntary. 'Volition' is a term of the wrong 
type to accept cither predicate. If so, it would seem to follow that 
it is also of the wrong type to accept such predicates as Virtuous' 
and 'wicked', 'good' and 'bad', a conclusion which might embarrass 
those moralists who use volitions as the sheet-anchor of their 

In short, then, the doctrine of volitions is a causal hypothesis, 
adopted because it was wrongly supposed that the question, 'What 
makes a bodily movement voluntary?' was a causal question. This 
supposition is, in fact, only a special twist of the general supposition 
that the question, 'How are mental-conduct concepts applicable to 
human behaviour?' is a question about the causation of that 

Champions of the doctrine should have noticed the simple 
fact that they and all other sensible persons knew how to decide 
questions about the voluntariness and involuntariness of actions 
and about the resoluteness and irresoluteness of agents before they 
had ever heard of the hypothesis of the occult inner thrusts of actions. 
They might then have realised that they were not elucidating the 
criteria already in efficient use, but, tacitly assuming their validity, 


were trying to correlate them with hypothetical occurrences of a 
para-mechanical pattern. Yet this correlation could, on the one 
hand, never be scientifically established, since the thrusts postulated 
were screened from scientific observation; and, on the other hand, 
it would be of no practical or theoretical use, since it would not 
assist our appraisals of actions, depending as it would on the 
presupposed validity of those appraisals. Nor would it elucidate 
the logic of those appraisal-concepts, the intelligent employment of 
which antedated the invention of this causal hypothesis. 

Before we bid farewell to the doctrine of volitions, it 
is expedient to consider certain quite familiar and authentic 
processes with which volitions are sometimes wrongly identified. 

People are frequently in doubt what to do; having considered 
alternative courses of action, they then, sometimes, select or choose 
one of these courses. This process of opting for one of a set of 
alternative courses of action is sometimes said to be what is signified 
by Volition'. But this identification will not do, for most voluntary 
actions do not issue out of conditions of indecision and are not 
therefore results of settlements of indecisions. Moreover it is 
notorious that a person may choose to do something but fail, 
from weakness of will, to do it; or he may fail to do it because 
some circumstance arises after the choice is made, preventing the 
execution of the act chosen. But the theory could not allow that 
volitions ever fail to result in action, else further executive operations 
would have to be postulated to account for the fact that sometimes 
voluntary actions are performed. And finally the process of 
deliberating between alternatives and opting for one of them is 
itself subject to appraisal-predicates. But if, for example, an act of 
choosing is describable as voluntary, then, on this suggested 
showing, it would have in its turn to be the result of a prior choice 
to choose, and that from a choice to choose to choose. . . . 

The same objections forbid the identification with volitions of 
such other familiar processes as that of resolving or making up our 
minds to do something and that of nerving or bracing ourselves 
to do something. I may resolve to get out of bed or go to the 
dentist, and I may, clenching my fists and gritting my teeth, brace 
myself to do so, but I may still backslide. If the action is not done, 
then, according to the doctrine, the volition to do it is also 
unexecuted. Again, the operations of resolving and nerving 


ourselves are themselves members of the class of creditable or dis- 
creditable actions, so they cannot constitute the peculiar ingredient 
which, according to the doctrine, is the common condition of any 
performance being creditable or discreditable. 

(3) The Distinction between Voluntary and Involuntary. 

It should be noticed that while ordinary folk, magistrates, 
parents and teachers, generally apply the words Voluntary' and 
'involuntary' to actions in one way, philosophers often apply them 
in quite another way. 

In their most ordinary employment Voluntary' and 'involuntary' 
are used, with a few minor elasticities, as adjectives applying to actions 
which ought not to be done. We discuss whether someone's action 
was voluntary or not only when the action seems to have been his 
fault. He is accused of making a noise, and the guilt is his, if the action 
was voluntary, like laughing; he has successfully excused himself, if 
he satisfies us that it was involuntary, like a sneeze. In the same 
way in ordinary life we raise questions of responsibility only when 
someone is charged, justly or unjustly, with an offence. It makes 
sense, in this use, to ask whether a boy was responsible for breaking 
a window, but not whether he was responsible for finishing his 
homework in good time. We do not ask whether it was his fault 
that he got a long-division sum right, for to get a sum right is not 
a fault. If he gets it wrong, he may satisfy us that his failure was not 
his fault, perhaps because he had not yet been shown how to do such 

In this ordinary use, then, it is absurd to discuss whether 
satisfactory, correct or admirable performances are voluntary or 
involuntary. Neither inculpation nor exculpation is in point. We 
neither confess to authorship nor adduce extenuating circumstances; 
neither plead 'guilty' nor plead 'not guilty'; for we are not 

But philosophers, in discussing what constitutes acts voluntary 
or involuntary, tend to describe as voluntary not only repre- 
hensible but also meritorious actions, not only things that are 
someone's fault but also things that are to his credit. The motives 
underlying their unwitting extension of the ordinary sense of 
Voluntary', 'involuntary' and 'responsible' will be considered later. 
For the moment it is worth while to consider certain consequences 


which follow from it. In the ordinary use, to say that a sneeze was 
involuntary is to say that the agent could not help doing it, and to 
say that a laugh was voluntary is to say that the agent could have 
helped doing it. (This is not to say that the laugh was intentional. 
We do not laugh on purpose.) The boy could have got the sum 
right which he actually got wrong; he knew how to behave, but he 
misbehaved; he was competent to tie a reef-knot, though what he 
unintentionally produced was a granny-knot. His failure or lapse 
was his fault. But when the word Voluntary' is given its philoso- 
phically stretched use, so that correct as well as incorrect, admirable as 
well as contemptible acts are described as voluntary, it seems to follow 
by analogy with the ordinary use, that a boy who gets his sum right 
can also be described as having been 'able to help it'. It would 
then be proper to ask: Could you have helped solving the 
riddle? Could you have helped drawing the proper conclusion? 
Could you have helped tying a proper reef-knot? Could you have 
helped seeing the point of that joke? Could you have helped being 
kind to that child? In fact, however, no one could answer these 
questions, though it is not at first obvious why, if it is correct to say 
that someone could have avoided getting a sum wrong, it is incorrect 
to say that he could have avoided getting it right. 

The solution is simple. When we say that someone could have 
avoided committing a lapse or error, or that it was his fault that 
he committed it, we mean that he knew how to do the right thing, 
or was competent to do so, but did not exercise his knowledge or 
competence. He was not trying, or not trying hard enough. But 
when a person has done the right thing, we cannot then say that 
he knew how to do the wrong thing, or that he was competent to 
make mistakes. For making mistakes is not an exercise of com- 
petence, nor is the commission of slips an exercise of knowledge 
how\ it is a failure to exercise knowledge how. It is true in one 
sense of 'could' that a person who had done a sum correctly could 
have got it wrong; in the sense, namely, that he is not exempt 
from the liability to be careless. But in another sense of 'could', to 
ask, 'Could you have got it wrong?' means 'Were you sufficiently 
intelligent and well-trained and were you concentrating hard 
enough to make a miscalculation ?* and this is as silly a question 
as to ask whether someone's teeth are strong enough to be broken 
by cracking nuts. 


The tangle of largely spurious problems, known as the problem 
of the Freedom of the Will, partly derives from this unconsciously 
stretched use of Voluntary' and these consequential misapplications 
of different senses of 'could' and 'could have helped'. 

The first task is to elucidate what is meant in their ordinary, 
undistorted use by Voluntary', 'involuntary', 'responsible', 'could 
not have helped' and 'his fault', as these expressions are used 
in deciding concrete questions of guilt and innocence. 

If a boy has tied a granny-knot instead of a reef-knot, we 
satisfy ourselves that it was his fault by first establishing that he 
knew how to tie a reef-knot, and then by establishing that his 
hand was not forced by external coercion and that there were no 
other agencies at work preventing him from tying the correct knot. 
We establish that he could tie reef-knots by finding out that he had 
been taught, had had practice, usually got them right, or by finding 
that he could detect and correct knots tied by others, or by finding 
that he was ashamed of what he had done and, without help from 
others, put it right himself. That he was not acting under duress 
or in panic or high fever or with numb fingers, is discovered 
in the way in which we ordinarily discover that highly exceptional 
incidents have not taken place; for such incidents would have been 
too remarkable to have gone unremarked, at least by the boy 
hinrcl f 

The first question which we had to decide had nothing to 
do with the occurrence or non-occurrence of any occult episode 
in the boy's stream of consciousness ; it was the question whether 
or not he had the required higher-level competence, that of 
knowing how to tie reef-knots. We were not, at this stage, 
inquiring whether he committed, or omitted, an extra public 
or private operation, but only whether he possessed or lacked a 
certain intelligent capacity. What satisfied us was not the 
(unattainable) knowledge of the truth or falsity of a particular 
covert cause-overt effect proposition, but the (attainable) knowledge 
of the truth or falsity of a complex and partially general hypothetical 
proposition not, in short, that he did tie a shadowy reef- or 
granny-knot behind the scenes, but that he could have tied a real 
one with this rope and would kave done so on this occasion, if he 
had paid more heed to what he was doing. The lapse was his fault 
because, knowing how to tie the knot, he still did not tie it correctly. 


Consider next the case of an act which everyone would decide 
was not the agent's fault. A boy arrives late for school and on 
inquiry it turns out that he left home at the usual time, did not 
dally on his way to the omnibus halt and caught the usual omnibus. 
But the vehicle broke down and could not complete the journey. 
The boy ran as fast as he could the rest of the way, but was still 
late. Clearly all the steps taken by the boy were either the same as 
those which normally bring him to school in time, or were the only 
steps open to him for remedying the effects of the breakdown. 
There was nothing else that he could have done and his teacher 
properly recommends him to follow the same routine on future 
occasions. His late arrival was not the result of a failure to do what 
he was capable of doing. He was prevented by a circumstance which 
was not in his power to modify. Here again the teacher is judging 
an action with reference to the capacities and opportunities of the 
agent; his excuse is accepted that he could not have done better 
than he did. The whole question of the involuntariness of his late 
arrival is decided without the boy being asked to report any 
deliverances of consciousness or introspection about the execution or 
non-execution of any volitions. 

It makes no difference if the actions with which an agent is 
charged either are or embody operations of silent soliloquy or other 
operations with verbal or non-verbal images. A slip in mental 
arithmetic is the pupil's fault on the same grounds as a slip made in 
written arithmetic; and an error committed in matching colours in 
the mind's eye may merit the reproach of carelessness in the same 
way as an error committed in matching colours on the draper's 
counter. If the agent could have done better than he did, then he 
could have helped doing it as badly as he did. 

Besides considering the ordinary senses of Voluntary', 'in- 
voluntary', 'responsible', 'my fault' and 'could' or 'could not help', 
we should notice as well the ordinary uses of such expressions as 
'effort of will', 'strength of will' and 'irresolute'. A person is 
described as behaving resolutely when in the execution of diffi- 
cult, protracted or disagreeable tasks he tends not to relax his 
efforts, not to let his attention be diverted, not to grumble and not to 
think much or often about his fatigue or fears. He does not shirk 
or drop things to which he has set his hand. A weak-willed person 
is one who is easily distracted or disheartened, apt to convince 


himself that another time will be more suitable or that the reasons 
for undertaking the task were not after all very strong. Note that 
it is no part of the definition of resoluteness or of irresoluteness that 
a resolution should actually have been formed. A resolute man may 
firmly resist temptations to abandon or postpone his task, though 
he never went through a prefatory ritual-process of making up his 
mind to complete it. But naturally such a man will also be disposed 
to perform any vows which he has made to others or to himself. 
Correspondingly the irresolute man will be likely to fail to carry 
out his often numerous good resolutions, but his lack of tenacity 
of purpose will be exhibited also in surrenders and slacknesses in 
courses of action which were unprefaced by any private or public 
undertakings to accomplish them. 

Strength of will is a propensity the exercises of which con- 
sist in sticking to tasks; that is, in not being deterred or diverted. 
Weakness of will is having too little of this propensity. The 
performances in which strength of will is exerted may be perform- 
ances of almost any sort, intellectual or manual, imaginative or 
administrative. It is not a single-track disposition or, for that and 
other reasons, a disposition to execute occult operations of one 
special kind. 

By 'an effort of will' is meant a particular exercise of tenacity 
of purpose, occurring when the obstacles are notably great, or the 
counter-temptations notably strong. Such efforts may, but need 
not, be accompanied by special processes, often of a ritual 
character, of nerving or adjuring oneself to do what is required; 
but these processes are not so much ways in which resolute- 
ness is shown as ways in which fear of irresoluteness manifests 

Before we leave the concept or concepts of voluntariness, two 
further points need to be made, (i) Very often we oppose things 
done voluntarily to things suffered under compulsion. Some soldiers 
are volunteers, others are conscripts; some yachtsmen go out to sea 
voluntarily, others are carried out to sea by the wind and tide. 
Here questions of inculpation and exculpation need not arise. In 
asking whether the soldier volunteered or was conscripted, we are 
asking whether he joined up because he wanted to do so, or whether 
he joined up because he had to do so, where 'had to' entails 'no 
matter what he wanted'. In asking whether the yachtsman went out 


to sea of his own accord or whether he was carried out, we are 
asking whether he went out on purpose, or whether he would 
still have gone out as he did, even if he had meant not to do so. 
Would bad news from home, or a warning from the coastguard, 
have stopped him ? 

What is involuntary, in this use, is not describable as an act. 
Being carried out to sea, or being called up, is something that happens 
to a person, not something which he does. In this respect, this 
antithesis between voluntary and involuntary differs from the 
antithesis we have in mind when we ask whether someone's tying 
of a granny-knot, or his knitting of his brows, is voluntary or 
involuntary. A person who frowns involuntarily is not forced to 
frown, as a yachtsman may be forced out to sea; nor is the careless 
boy forced to tie a granny-knot, as the conscript is forced to join 
the army. Even frowning is something that a person does. It is not 
done to him. So sometimes the question 'Voluntary or involuntary?' 
means 'Did the person do it, or was it done to him?'; sometimes it 
presupposes that he did it, but means 'Did he do it with or without 
heeding what he was doing?' or 'Did he do it on purpose or 
inadvertently, mechanically, or instinctively, etc. ?' 

(2) When a person does something voluntarily, in the sense that 
he does it on purpose or is trying to do it, his action certainly reflects 
some quality or qualities of mind, since (it is more than a verbal 
point to say) he is in some degree and in one fashion or another 
minding what he is doing. It follows also that, if linguistically 
equipped, he can then tell, without research or conjecture, what 
he has been trying to accomplish. But, as will be argued in 
Chapter V, these implications of voluntariness do not carry 
with them the double-life corollaries often assumed. To frown 
intentionally is not to do one thing on one's forehead and another 
thing in a second metaphorical place; nor is it to do one thing 
with one's brow-muscles and another thing with some non-bodily 
organ. In particular, it is not to bring about a frown on one's 
forehead by first bringing about a frown-causing exertion of some 
occult non-muscle. 'He frowned intentionally' does not report the 
occurrence of two episodes. It reports the occurrence of one episode, 
but one of a very different character from that reported by 'he 
frowned involuntarily', though the frowns might be photo- 
graphically as similar as you please. 


(4) Freedom of the Will. 

It has been pointed out that in some philosophers' discussions of 
the voluntariness of actions, the words Voluntary', 'involuntary' 
and 'responsible' are used, not with their ordinary restriction to 
lapses or apparent lapses, but with a wider scope covering all 
performances which are to be adjudged favourably or unfavourably 
by any criteria of excellence or admissibility. In their use, a person 
is described as voluntarily doing the right thing and as voluntarily 
doing the wrong thing, or as being responsible not only for actions 
for which he is subject to accusation, but also for actions entitling 
him to kudos. It is used, that is, as a synonym of 'intentional'. 

Now the philosophers who have worked with this stretched 
usage have had a strong intellectual motive for doing so. They felt 
the need for an apparatus of terms by which to demarcate those 
things and occurrences to which either plaudits or strictures are 
appropriate from those to which neither are appropriate. Without 
such an apparatus it would, they felt, be impossible to state what 
are the qualifications for membersliip of the realm of Spirit, the 
lack of which entails relegation to the realm of brute Nature. 

The main source of this concern to discover some peculiar 
element present, wherever Spirit is present, and absent, where it is 
absent, was alarm at the bogy of Mechanism. It was believed that 
the physical sciences had established, or were on the way to 
establishing, that the things and events of the external world are 
rigidly governed by discoverable laws, laws the formulations of 
which admit no appraisal-words. It was felt that all external 
happenings are confined within the iron grooves of mechanical 
causation. The genesis, the properties and the courses of these 
happenings were, or would be, totally explained in terms of 
measurable and, it was supposed, therefore purposeless forces. 

To salve our right to employ appraisal-concepts, the field of 
their proper application had to be shown to lie somewhere else than 
this external world, and an internal world of unmeasurable but 
purposeful forces was thought to do the trick. 'Volitions' being 
already nominated as the required outputs of internal forces, it was 
then natural to suppose that voluntariness, defined in terms of 
propagation by volitions, was the common and peculiar element 
which makes occurrences spiritual. Scientific propositions and 
appraisal-propositions were accordingly distinguished as being 


respectively descriptions of what takes place in the external world 
and descriptions of what takes place in the internal world at least 
until psychologists claimed that their assertions were scientific 
descriptions of what takes place in the inner world. 

The question whether human beings can merit praise or 
blame was consequently construed as the question whether volitions 
are effects. 

(5) The Bogy of Mechanism. 

Whenever a new science achieves its first big successes, its 
enthusiastic acolytes always fancy that all questions are now soluble 
by extension of its methods of solving its questions. At one time 
theorists imagined that the whole world was nothing more than a 
complex of geometrical figures, at another that the whole world 
was describable and explicable in the propositions of pure arithmetic. 
Chemical, electrical, Darwinian and Freudian cosmogonies have 
also enjoyed their bright but brief days. 'At long last', the zealots 
always say, 'we can give, or at least indicate, a solution of all 
difficulties and one which is unquestionably a scientific solution'. 

The physical sciences launched by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton 
and Boyle secured a longer and a stronger hold upon the cosmogony- 
builders than did either their forerunners or their successors. People 
still tend to treat laws of Mechanics not merely as the ideal type of 
scientific laws, but as, in some sense, the ultimate laws of Nature. 
They tend to hope or fear that biological, psychological and 
sociological laws will one day be 'reduced' to mechanical laws 
though it is left unclear what sort of a transaction this 'reduction' 
would be. 

I have spoken of Mechanism as a bogy. The fear that 
theoretically minded persons have felt lest everything should turn 
out to be explicable by mechanical laws is a baseless fear. And it is 
baseless not because the contingency which they dread happens not 
to be impending, but because it makes no sense to speak of such a 
contingency. Physicists may one day have found the answers to all 
physical questions, but not all questions are physical questions. The 
laws that they have found and will find may, in one sense of the 
metaphorical verb, govern everything that happens, but they do 
not ordain everything that happens. Indeed they do not ordain 
anything that happens. Laws of nature are not fiats. 


An illustration may elucidate this point. A scientifically trained 
spectator, who is not acquainted with chess or any other game, is 
permitted to look at a chessboard in the intervals between the 
moves. He does not yet see the players making the moves. After a 
time he begins to notice certain regularities. The pieces known to us 
as 'pawns', normally move only one square at a time and then only 
forwards, save in certain special circumstances when they move 
diagonally. The pieces known to us as 'bishops' only move 
diagonally, though they can move any number of squares at a time. 
Knights always make dog-legged moves. And so on. After much 
research this spectator will have worked out all the rules of chess, 
and he is then allowed to see that the moves of the pieces are made 
by people whom we know as 'players'. He commiserates with them 
upon their bondage. "Every move that you make", he says, "is 
governed by unbreakable rules; from the moment that one of you 
puts his hand on a pawn, the move that he will make with it is, 
in most cases, accurately predictable. The whole course of what you 
tragically dub your 'game' is remorselessly pre-ordained; nothing 
in it takes place which cannot be shown to be governed by one or 
other of the iron rules. Heartless necessity dictates the play, leaving 
no room in it for intelligence or purpose. True, I am not yet 
competent to explain every move that I witness by the rules that I 
have so far discovered. But it would be unscientific to suppose that 
there are inexplicable moves. There must therefore be further rules, 
which I hope to discover and which will satisfactorily complete 
the explanations which I have inaugurated." The players, of 
course, laugh and explain to him that though every move is 
governed, not one of them is ordained by the rules. "True, given that 
I start to move my bishop, you can predict with certainty that it 
will end on a square of the same colour as that from which it 
started. That can be deduced from the rules. But that, or how far, I 
shall move my bishop at this or that stage of the game is not stated 
in, or deducible from, the rules. There is plenty of room for us to 
display cleverness and stupidity and to exercise deliberation and 
choice. Though nothing happens that is irregular, plenty happens 
that is surprising, ingenious and silly. The rules are the same for all 
the games of chess that have dVer been played, yet nearly every 
game that has ever been played has taken a course for which the 
players can recall no close parallels. The rules are unalterable, but 


the games are not uniform. The rules prescribe what the players 
may not do; everything else is permitted, though many moves 
that are permitted would be bad tactics. 

"There are no further rules of the game for you to discover and 
the 'explanations' which you hope to find for the particular moves 
that we make can, of course, be discovered, but they are not 
explanations in terms of rules but in terms of some quite different 
things, namely, such tilings as the player's consideration and 
application of tactical principles. Your notion of what constitutes 
an explanation was too narrow. The sense in which a rule 'explains' 
a move made in conformity with it is not the same as the sense in 
which a tactical principle explains a move, for all that every move 
that obeys a tactical principle also obeys a rule. Knowing how to 
apply tactical principles involves knowing the rules of the game, but 
there is no question of these principles being 'reducible' to rules of 
the game." 

This illustration is not intended to suggest that the laws of 
physics are very much like the rules of chess; for the course of 
Nature is not a game and its laws are not human inventions or 
conventions. What the illustration is meant to bring out is the fact 
there is no contradiction in saying that one and the same process, 
such as the move of a bishop, is in accordance with two principles of 
completely different types and such that neither is 'reducible' to 
the other, though one of them presupposes the other. 

Hence there derive two quite different sorts of 'explanation' of 
the moves, neither of which is incompatible with the other. Indeed 
the explanation in terms of tactical canons presupposes that in 
terms of the rules of chess, but it is not deducible from those rules. 
This point can be expressed in another way. A spectator might ask, 
in one sense of 'why', why the bishop always ends a move on a 
square of the same colour as that on which it began the game; he 
would be answered by being referred to the rules of chess, including 
those prescribing the design of the board. He might then ask, in 
another sense of 'why', why a player at a certain stage of the game 
moved one of his bishops (and not some other piece) to one square 
(and not to another); he might be answered that it was to force 
the opposing Queen to cease to threaten the player's King. 

Words like 'explanation', 'law', 'rule', 'principle', 'why', 
'because', 'cause', 'reason', 'govern', 'necessitate', etc., have a range 


of typically different senses. Mechanism seemed to be a menace 
because it was assumed that the use of these terms in mechanical 
theories is their sole use; that all 'why' questions are answerable in 
terms of laws of motion. In fact all 'why' questions of one type are 
perhaps answerable in those terms and no 'why' questions of other 
types are answerable merely in those terms. 

It may well be that throughout the whole length of The Decline 
and Fall of the Roman Empire Gibbon never once infringes the rules 
of English grammar. They governed his entire writing, yet they 
did not ordain what he should write, or even the style in which he 
should write; they merely forbade certain ways of conjoining words. 
Knowing these rules and Gibbon's obedience to them, a reader can 
predict from the fact that a particular sentence has for its subject a 
plural noun that its verb will be a plural verb. His predictions will be 
uniformly correct, yet we feel no inclination to lament that Gibbon's 
pen ran in a fatal groove. Grammar tells the reader that the verb 
must be a plural verb, but not which verb it will be. 

An argumentative passage from The Decline and Fall might be 
examined for the grammatical rules which its word-arrangements 
observe, the stylistic canons which its word-arrangements observe, 
and the logical rules which its word-arrangements observe. There 
is no conflict or competition between these different types of 
principles; all alike are applied in the same material; all alike can 
supply licenses for correct predictions; all alike may be referred to 
for answers to questions of the same verbal pattern 'Why did 
Gibbon write this and not something else?' 

The discoveries of the physical sciences no more rule out life, 
sentience, purpose or intelligence from presence in the world 
than do the rules of grammar extrude style or logic from prose. 
Certainly the discoveries of the physical sciences say nothing of 
life, sentience, or purpose, but nor do the rules of grammar say 
anything about style or logic. For the laws of physics apply to 
what is animate as well as to what is inanimate, to intelligent people 
as well as to idiots, just as the rules of grammar apply to Whitakers 
Almanac as well as to The Decline and Fall, to Mrs. Eddy's as well 
as to Hume's reasonings. 

The favourite model to which the fancied mechanistic world is 
assimilated is that of billiard balls imparting their motion to one 
another by impact. Yet a game of billiards provides one of the 


simplest examples of a course of events for the description of which 
mechanical terms are necessary without being sufficient. Certainly 
from accurate knowledge of the weight, shape, elasticity and 
movements of the balls, the constitution of the table and the 
conditions of the atmosphere it is in principle possible, in accordance 
with k$own laws, to deduce from a momentary state of the balls 
what will be their later state. But it does not follow from this that 
the course of the game is predictable in accordance with those laws 
alone. A scientific forecaster, who was ignorant of the rules and tactics 
of the game and of the skill and plans of the players, could predict, 
perhaps, from the beginning of a single stroke, the positions in which 
the balls will come to rest before the next stroke is made; but he 
could predict no further. The player himself may be able to foresee 
with modest probability the sort of break that he will make, for 
he knows, perhaps, the best tactics to apply to situations like this 
and he knows a good deal about his own skill, endurance, patience, 
keenness and intentions. 

' It must be noticed that in so far as the player has any skill in 
getting the balls where he wishes, he must have knowledge, of a 
rule-of-thumb sort, of the mechanical principles which govern the 
accelerations and decelerations of the balls. His knowledge how to 
execute his intentions is not at loggerheads with his knowledge of 
mechanical laws; it depends on that knowledge. In applying 
appraisal-concepts to his play we are not worried by the fact that 
the motions imparted by him to the balls are governed by mechanical 
laws ; for there could not be a game of skill at all if, per impossible, 
the instruments of the game behaved randomly. 

The modem interpretation of natural laws as statements not of 
necessities but of very, very long odds is sometimes acclaimed as 
providing a desiderated clement of non-rigorousness in Nature. 
Now at last, it is sometimes felt, we can be scientific while reserving 
just a very few occasions in which appraisal-concepts can be properly 
applied. This silly view assumes that an action could not merit 
favourable or unfavourable criticism, unless it were an exception to 
scientific generalisations. But the billiards player asks for no special 
indulgences from the laws of physics any more than he does from 
the rules of billiards. Why should <he? They do not force his hand. 
The fears expressed by some moral philosophers that the advance 
of the natural sciences diminishes the field within which the moral 


virtues can be exercised rests on the assumption that there is some 
contradiction in saying that one and the same occurrence is governed 
both by mechanical laws and by moral principles, an assumption as 
baseless as the assumption that a golfer caiinot at once conform to 
the laws of ballistics and obey the rules of golf and play with elegance 
and skill. Not only is there plenty of room for purpose where every- 
thing is governed by mechanical laws, but there would be no place 
for purpose if things were not so governed. Predictability is a neces- 
sary condition of planning. 

Mechanism then is a mere bogy and while there is much to be 
elucidated in the special concepts of biology, anthropology, 
sociology, ethics, logic, aesthetics, politics, economics, historio- 
graphy, etc., there is no need for the desperate salvage-operation of 
withdrawing the applications of them out of the ordinary world to 
some postulated other world, or of setting up a partition between 
things that exist in Nature and things that exist in non-Nature. 
No occult precursors of overt acts are required to preserve for 
their agent his title to plaudits or strictures for perform- 
ing them, nor would they be effective preservatives if they did 

Men are not machines, not even ghost-ridden machines. They 
arc men a tautology which is sometimes worth remembering. 
People often pose such questions as 'How does my mind get my 
hand to make the required movements ?' and even * What makes my 
hand do what my mind tells it to do?' Questions of these patterns 
arc properly asked of certain chain-processes. The question 'What 
makes the bullet fly out of the barrel?' is properly answered by 
'The expansion of gases in the cartridge'; the question 'What makes 
the cartridge explode?' is answered by reference to the percussion 
of the detonator; and the question 'How does my squeezing the 
trigger make the pin strike the detonator ?' is answered by describing 
the mechanism of springs, levers and catches between the trigger 
and the pin. So when it is asked 'How does my mind get my finger to 
squeeze the trigger?' the form of the question presupposes that a 
further chain-process is involved, embodying still earlier tensions, 
releases and discharges, though this time 'mental' ones. But what- 
ever is the act or operation adduced as the first step of this postulated 
chain-process, the performance of it has to be described in just the 
same way as in ordinary life we describe the squeezing of the trigger 


by the marksman. Namely we say simply 'He did it* and not 'He did 
or underwent something else which caused it*. 

In conclusion, it is perhaps worth while giving a warning against 
a very popular fallacy. The hearsay knowledge that everything in 
Nature is subject to mechanical laws often tempts people to say 
that Nature is either one big machine, or else a conglomeration of 
machines. But in fact there are very few machines in Nature. The 
only machines that we find are the machines that human beings 
make, such as clocks, windmills and turbines. There are a very few 
natural systems which somewhat resemble such machines, namely, 
such things as solar systems. These do go on by themselves and 
repeat indefinitely the same series of movements. The do go, as 
few unmanufactured things go, 'like clock-work'. True, to make 
machines we have to know and apply Mechanics. But inventing 
machines is not copying things found in inanimate Nature. 

Paradoxical though it may seem, we have to look rather 
to living organisms for examples in Nature of self-maintaining, 
routine-observing systems. The movements of the heavenly bodies 
provided one kind of 'clock'. It was the human pulse that provided 
the next. Nor is it merely primitive animism which makes native 
children think of engines as iron horses. There is very little else in 
Nature to which they are so closely analogous. Avalanches and 
games of billiards are subject to mechanical laws; but they are not 
at all like the workings of machines. 



(1) Foreword. 

IN this chapter I discuss certain of the concepts of emotion and 

This scrutiny is necessary because adherents of the dogma of 
the ghost in the machine can adduce in support of it the consent of 
most philosophers and psychologists to the view that emotions are 
internal or private experiences. Emotions are described as turbulences 
in the stream of consciousness, the owner of which cannot help 
directly registering them; to external witnesses they are, in conse- 
quence, necessarily occult. They are occurrences which take place 
not in the public, physical world but in your or my secret, mental 

I shall argue that the word 'emotion' is used to designate at 
least three or four different kinds of things, which I shall call 
'inclinations' (or 'motives'), 'moods', 'agitations' (or 'commotions') 
and 'feelings'. Inclinations and moods, including agitations, are not 
occurrences and do not therefore take place either publicly or 
privately. They are propensities, not acts or states. They arc, 
however, propensities of different kinds, and their differences are 
important. Feelings, on the other hand, are occurrences, but the 
place that mention of them should take in descriptions of human 
behaviour is very different from that which the standard theories 
accord to it. Moods or frames of mind are, unlike motives, but 
like maladies and states of the weather, temporary conditions which 
in a certain way collect occurrences, but they are not themselves extra 

(2) Feelings versus Inclinations. 

By 'feelings* I refer to the sorts of tilings which people often 
describe as thrills, twinges, pangs, throbs, wrenches, itches, prickings, 



chills, glows, loads, qualms, hankerings, curdlings, sinkings, tensions, 
gnawings and shocks. Ordinarily, when people report the 
occurrence of a feeling, they do so in a phrase like 'a throb of 
compassion/ 'a shock of surprise* or 'a thrill of anticipation*. 

It is an important linguistic fact that these names for specific 
feelings, such as 'itch', 'qualm' and 'pang' are also used as names of 
specific bodily sensations. If someone says that he has just felt a 
twinge, it is proper to ask whether it was a twinge of remorse or 
of rheumatism, though the word 'twinge' is not necessarily being 
used in quite the same sense in the alternative contexts. 

There are further respects in which the ways in which we speak 
of, say, qualms of apprehension are analogous to the ways in which 
we speak of, say, qualms of sea-sickness. We are ready to charac- 
terise either as acute or faint, sudden or lingering, intermittent or 
steady. A man may wince from a pricking of his conscience or 
from a pricking in his finger. Moreover, we are in some cases ready 
to locate, say, the sinking feeling of despair in the pit of the 
stomach or the tense feeling of anger in the muscles of the jaw 
and fist. Other feelings which we are not prepared to locate in any 
particular part of the body, like glows of pride, seem to pervade 
the whole body in much the same way as do glows of warmth. 

James boldly identified feelings with bodily sensations, but for 
our purposes it is enough to show that we talk of feelings very much 
as we talk of bodily sensations, though it is possible that there is a 
tinge of metaphor in our talk of the former which is absent from our 
talk of the latter. 

On the other hand, it is necessary to do justice to the crucial fact 
that we do report feelings in such idioms as 'qualms of apprehension' 
and 'glows of pride' ; we do, that is, distinguish a glow of pride 
from a glow of warmth, and I shall have to try to bring out the 
force of such distinctions. I hope to show that though it is quite 
proper to describe someone as feeling a throb of compassion, his 
compassion is not to be equated with a throb or a series of throbs, 
any more than his fatigue is his gasps; so no disillusioning 
consequences would follow from acknowledging that throbs, 
twinges and other feelings are bodily sensations. 

In one sense, then, of 'emotion* the feelings are emotions. But 
there is quite another sense of 'emotion' in which theorists classify 
as emotions the motives by which people's higher-level behaviour 


is explained. When a man is described as vain, considerate, 
avaricious, patriotic or indolent, an explanation is being given of 
why he conducts his actions, daydreams and thoughts in the way 
he does, and, according to the standard terminology, vanity, 
kindliness, avarice, patriotism and laziness rank as species of emotion; 
they come thence to be spoken of as feelings. 

But there is a great verbal muddle here, associated with a great 
logical muddle. To begin with, when someone is described as a 
vain or indolent man, the words Vain' and 'indolent' are used to 
signify more or less lasting traits in his character. In this use he 
might be said to have been vain since childhood, or indolent during 
his entire half-holiday. His vanity and indolence are dispositional 
properties, which could be unpacked in such expressions as 
'Whenever situations of certain sorts have arisen, he has always or 
usually tried to make himself prominent' or 'Whenever he was 
faced by an option between doing something difficult and not 
doing it, he shirked doing the difficult thing'. Sentences beginning 
with 'Whenever' are not singular occurrence reports. Motive words 
used in this way signify tendencies or propensities and therefore 
cannot signify the occurrence of feelings. They are elliptical ex- 
pressions of general hypothetical propositions of a certain sort, 
and cannot be construed as expressing categorical narratives of 

It will however be objected that, besides this dispositional use 
of motive words, there must also be a corresponding active use of 
them. For a man to be punctual in the dispositional sense of the 
adjective, he must tend to be punctual on particular occasions; and 
the sense in which he is said to be punctual for a particular 
rendezvous is not the dispositional but the active sense of 'punctual'. 
'He tends to be at his rendezvous on time' expresses a general 
hypothetical proposition, the truth of which requires that there 
should also be corresponding true categorical propositions of the 
pattern 'he was at today's rendezvous in good time'. So, it will be 
argued, for a man to be a vain or indolent man there must be 
particular exercises of vanity and indolence occurring at particular 
moments, and these will be actual emotions or feelings. 

This argument certainly establishes something, but it does not 
establish the point desired. While it is true that to describe a 
man as vain is to say that he is subject to a specific tendency, it 


is not true that the particular exercises of this tendency consist 
in his registering particular thrills or twinges. On the contrary, on 
hearing that a man is vain we expect him, in the first instance, to 
behave in certain ways, namely to talk a lot about himself, to cleave 
to the society of the eminent, to reject criticisms, to seek the foot- 
lights and to disengage himself from conversations about the merits 
of others. We expect him also to indulge in roseate daydreams 
about his own successes, to avoid recalling past failures and to 
plan for his own advancement. To be vain is to tend to 
act in these and innumerable other kindred ways. Certainly 
we also expect the vain man to feel certain pangs and flutters 
in certain situations; we expect him to have an acute sinking 
feeling, when an eminent person forgets his name, and to 
feel buoyant of heart and light of toe on hearing of the misfortunes 
of his rivals. But feelings of pique and buoyancy are not more 
directly indicative of vanity than are public acts of boasting or 
private acts of daydreaming. Indeed they arc less directly indicative, 
for reasons which will shortly appear. 

Some theorists will object that to speak of an act of 
boasting as one of the direct exercises of vanity is to leave out the 
cardinal factor in the situation. When we explain why a man 
boasts by saying that it is because he is vain, we are forgetting that a 
disposition is not an event and so cannot be a cause. The cause of 
his boasting must be an event antecedent to his beginning to boast. 
He must be moved to boast by some actual 'impulse', namely an 
impulse of vanity. So the immediate or direct actualisations of 
vanity are particular vanity impulses, and these are feelings. The 
vain man is a man who tends to register particular feelings of vanity; 
these cause or impel him to boast, or perhaps to will to boast, and 
to do all the other things which we say are done from vanity. 

It should be noticed that this argument takes it for granted 
that to explain an act as done from a certain motive, in this case 
from vanity, is to give a causal explanation. This means that it 
assumes that a mind, in this case the boaster's mind, is a field of 
special causes; that is why a vanity feeling has been called in to be 
the inner cause of the overt boasting. I shall shortly argue that to 
explain an act as done from a ceftrtain motive is not analogous to 
saying that the glass broke, because a stone hit it, but to the quite 
different type of statement that the glass broke, when the stone hit 


it, because the glass was brittle. Just as there are no other momentary 
actualisations of brittleness than, for example, flying into fragments 
when struck, so no other momentary actualisations of chronic 
vanity need to be postulated than such things as boasting, day- 
dreaming about triumphs and avoiding conversations about the 
merits of others. 

But before expanding this argument I want to show how 
intrinsically unplausible the view is that, on each occasion that a 
vain man behaves vaingloriously, he experiences a particular 
palpitation or pricking of vanity. To put it quite dogmatically, 
the vain man never feels vain. Certainly, when thwarted, he feels 
acute dudgeon and when unexpectedly successful, he feels buoyant. 
But there is no special thrill or pang which we call a 'feeling of 
vanity'. Indeed, if there were such a recognisable specific feeling, and 
the vain man was constantly experiencing it, he would be the first 
instead of the last person to recognise how vain he was. 

Take another example. A man is interested in Symbolic 
Logic. He regularly reads books and articles on the subject, discusses 
it, works out problems in it and neglects lectures on other subjects. 
According to the view which is here contested, he must therefore 
constantly experience impulses of a peculiar kind, namely feelings 
of interest in Symbolic Logic, and if his interest is very strong these 
feelings must be very acute and very frequent. He must therefore 
be able to tell us whether these feelings are sudden, like twinges, 
or lasting, like aches; whether they succeed one another several 
times a minute or only a few times an hour; and whether he feels 
them in the small of his back or in his forehead. But clearly his 
only reply to such specific questions would be that he catches himself 
experiencing no peculiar throbs or qualms while he is attending to 
his hobby. He may report a feeling of vexation, when his studies are 
interrupted, and the feeling of a load off his chest, when distractions 
are removed; but there are no peculiar feelings of interest in 
Symbolic Logic for him to report. While undisturbedly pursuing 
his hobby, he feels no perturbations at all. 

Suppose, however, that there were such feelings cropping up, 
maybe, about every two or twenty minutes. We should still expect 
to find him discussing and studying the subject in the intervals 
between these occurrences, and we should correctly say that he 
was still discussing and studying the subject from interest in it. 


This point by itself establishes the conclusion that to do something 
from a motive is compatible with being free from any particular 
feelings while doing it. 

Of course, the standard theories of motives do not speak so 
crudely of qualms, pangs and flutters. They speak more sedately 
of desires, impulses or promptings. Now there are feelings 
of wanting, namely those we call 'hankerings', 'cravings' and 
Ditchings' . So let us put our question in this way. Is being interested 
in Symbolic Logic equivalent to being liable or prone to feel certain 
special hankerings, gnawings or cravings? And does working at 
Symbolic Logic from interest in it involve feeling one such itching 
before each bit of the work is begun ? If the affirmative answer is given, 
then there can be no answer to the question, 'From what motive 
does the student work at the subject in the intervals between the 
itchings ?' And if to say that his interest was strong meant that the 
supposed feelings were frequent and acute, the absurd consequence 
would follow that the more strongly a man was interested in a 
subject, the more his attention would be distracted from it. To 
call a feeling or sensation 'acute' is to say that it is difficult not to 
attend to it, and to attend to a feeling is not the same thing as to 
attend to a problem in Symbolic Logic. 

We must reject, then, the conclusion of the argument which 
tried to prove that motive words are the names of feelings or else 
of tendencies to have feelings. But what was wrong with the 
argument for this conclusion? 

There are at least two quite different senses in which an 
occurrence is said to be 'explained'; and there are correspondingly 
at least two quite different senses in which we ask 'why' it occurred 
and two quite different senses in which we say that it happened 
'because' so and so was the case. The first sense is the causal sense. 
To ask why the glass broke is to ask what caused it to break, and 
we explain, in this sense, the fracture of the glass when we report 
that a stone hit it. The 'because' clause in the explanation reports 
an event, namely the event which stood to the fracture of the glass 
as cause to effect. 

But very frequently we look for and get explanations of 
occurrences in another sense of 'explanation'. We ask why the glass 
shivered when struck by the stone and we get the answer that it was 
because the glass was brittle. Now 'brittle' is a dispositional adjective; 


that is to say, to describe the glass as brittle is to assert a general 
hypothetical proposition about the glass. So when we say that the 
glass broke when struck because it was brittle, the 'because' clause 
does not report a happening or a cause; it states a law-like proposi- 
tion. People commonly say of explanations of this second kind 
that they give the 'reason' for the glass breaking when struck. 

How does the law-like general hypothetical proposition work? 
It says, roughly, that the glass, if sharply struck or twisted, etc. 
would not dissolve or stretch or evaporate but fly into fragments. 
The matter of fact that the glass did at a particular moment fly into 
fragments, when struck by a particular stone, is explained, in this 
sense of 'explain', when the first happening, namely the impact of 
the stone, satisfies the protasis of the general hypothetical proposi- 
tion, and when the second happening, namely the fragmentation 
of the glass, satisfies its apodosis. 

This can now be applied to the explanation of actions as issuing 
from specified motives. When we ask 'Why did someone act in a 
certain way?' this question might, so far as its language goes, either 
be an inquiry into the cause of his acting in that way, or be an 
inquiry into the character of the agent which accounts for his 
having acted in that way on that occasion. I suggest, what I shall 
now try to prove, that explanations by motives are explanations of 
the second type and not of the first type. It is perhaps more than 
a merely linguistic fact that a man who reports the motive from 
which something is done is, in common parlance, said to be giving 
the 'reason' for the action. It should be also noticed that there are 
lots of different kinds of such explanations of human actions. A twitch 
may be explained by a reflex, the filling of a pipe by an inveterate 
habit; the answering of a letter by a motive. Some of the differences 
between reflexes, habits and motives will have to be described at a 
later stage. 

The present issue is this. The statement 'he boasted from 
vanity' ought, on one view, to be construed as saying that 'he 
boasted and the cause of his boasting was the occurrence in him of 
?L particular feeling or impulse of vanity'. On the other view, it is to 
be construed as saying 'he boasted on meeting the stranger and 
his doing so satisfies the law*like proposition that whenever he 
finds a chance of securing the admiration and envy of others, he 
does whatever he thinks will produce this admiration and envy'. 


My first argument in favour of the second way of construing 
such statements is that no one could ever know or even, usually, 
reasonably conjecture that the cause of someone else's overt action 
was the occurrence in him of a feeling. Even if the agent reported, 
what people never do report, that he had experienced a vanity itch 
just before he boasted, this would be very weak evidence that the 
itch caused the action, since for all we know, the cause was any 
one of a thousand other synchronous happenings. On this view the 
imputation of motives would be incapable of any direct testing and 
no reasonable person would put any reliance on any such imputation. 
It would be like water-divining in places where well-sinking was 

In fact, however, we do discover the motives of other people. 
The process of discovering them is not immune from error, but nor 
are the errors incorrigible. It is or is like an inductive process, 
which results in the establishment of law-like propositions and the 
applications of them as the 'reasons' for particular actions. What is 
established in each case is or includes a general hypothetical proposi- 
tion of a certain sort. The imputation of a motive for a particular 
action is not a causal inference to an unwitnessed event but the 
subsumption of an episode proposition under a law-like proposition. 
It is therefore analogous to the explanation of reactions and actions 
by reflexes and habits, or to the explanation of the fracture of the 
glass by reference to its brittleness. 

The way in which a person discovers his own long-term motives 
is the same as the way in which he discovers those of others. The 
quantity and quality of the information accessible to him differ in the 
two inquiries, but its items are in general of the same sort. He has, it is 
true, a fund of recollections of his own past deeds, thoughts, fancies 
and feelings; and he can perform the experiments of fancying 
himself confronted by tasks and opportunities which have not 
actually occurred. He can thus base his appreciations of his own 
lasting inclinations on data which he lacks for his appreciations of 
the inclinations of others. On the other side, his appreciations of 
his own inclinations are unlikely to be unbiased and he is not in a 
favourable position to compare his own actions and reactions with 
those of others. In general we think that an impartial and discerning 
spectator is a better judge of a person's prevailing motives, as well 
as of his habits, abilities and weaknesses, than is that person himself, 


a view which is directly contrary to the theory which holds that 
an agent possesses a Privileged Access to the so-called springs of 
his own actions and is, because of that access, able and bound to 
discover, without inference or research, from what motives he 
tends to act and from what motive he acted on a particular occasion. 

We shall see later on (Chapter V) that a person who does or 
undergoes something, heeding what he is doing or undergoing, 
can, commonly, answer questions about the incident without 
inference or research. But what gives him those ready-made 
answers can and often does give his companions also those same 
ready-made answers. He does not have to be a detective, but nor 
do they. 

Another argument supports this thesis. A person replying to 
an interrogation might say that he was delving into a ditch in order 
to find the larvae of a certain species of insect; that he was looking 
for these larvae in order to find out on what fauna or flora they 
were parasitic; that he was trying to find out on what they were 
parasitic in order to test a certain ecological hypothesis ; and that he 
wanted to test this hypothesis in order to test a certain hypothesis 
about Natural Selection. At each stage he declares his motive or 
reason for pursuing certain investigations. And each successive 
reason that he gives is of a higher level of generality than its 
predecessor. He is subsuming one interest under another, somewhat 
as more special laws are subsumed under more general laws. He is 
not recording a chronological series of earlier and earlier stages, 
though of course he could do this if asked the quite different 
questions What first aroused your interest in this problem ? and in 

In the case of every action, taken by itself, for which it is natural 
to ask 'From what motive was it done?' it is always possible that it 
was not done from a motive but from force of habit. Whatever I 
do or say, it is always conceivable, though nearly always false, that 
I did it, or said it, in complete absence of mind. The performance 
of an action from a motive is different from its performance out 
of habit; but the sorts of things which belong to the one class 
also belong to the other. Now to say that an action was done from 
force of habit is patently to say that a specific disposition explains 
the action. No one, I trust, thinks that 'habit' is the name of a 
peculiar internal event or class of events. To ask whether an action 


was done from force of habit or from kindliness of heart is therefore 
to ask which of two specified dispositions is the explanation of the 

Finally, we should consider by what tests we should try to decide 
a dispute about the motive from which a person had done some- 
tiling; did he, for example, throw up a well-paid post for a relatively 
humble Government job from patriotism or from a desire to be 
exempt from military service? We begin, perhaps, by asking him; 
but on this sort of matter his avowals, to us or to himself, would 
very likely not be frank. We next try, not necessarily unsuccess- 
fully, to settle the dispute by considering whether his words, 
actions, embarrassments, etc., on this and other occasions square 
with the hypothesis that he is physically timorous and averse from 
regimentation, or whether they square with the hypothesis that he 
is relatively indifferent to money and would sacrifice anything to 
help win the war. We try, that is, to settle by induction the relevant 
traits in his character. In applying, then, the results of our induction 
to his particular decision, i.e. in explaining why he came to it, we 
do not press him to recall the itches, pangs and throbs that he 
registered in making it; nor, probably, do we trouble to infer to 
their occurrence. And there is a special reason for not paying much 
heed to the feelings had by a person whose motives are under 
investigation, namely that we know that lively and frequent feelings 
are felt by sentimentalists whose positive actions show quite 
clearly that their patriotism, e.g. is a self-indulgent make-believe. 
Their hearts duly sink wheu they hear that their country's plight is 
desperate, but their appetites are unaffected and the routines of 
their lives are unmodified. Their bosoms swell at a march-past, but 
they avoid marching themselves. They are rather like theatregoers 
and novel readers, who also feel genuine pangs, glows, flutters and 
twinges of despair, indignation, exhilaration and disgust, with the 
difference that the theatregoers and novel readers realise that they 
are making-believe. 

To say, then, that a certain motive is a trait in someone's 
character is to say that he is inclined to do certain sorts of things, 
make certain sorts of plans, indulge in certain sorts of daydreams 
and also, of course, in certain situations to feel certain sorts of 
feelings. To say that he did something from that motive is to say 
that this action, done in its particular circumstances, was just the 


sort of thing that that was an inclination to do. It is to say 'he would 
do that'. 

(3) Inclinations versus Agitations. 

Quite different from inclinations are the states of mind or moods, 
persons in which are described as agitated, disturbed, distracted or 
upset. To be anxious, startled, shocked, excited, convulsed, flabber- 
gasted, in suspense, flurried and irritated, are familiar kinds of 
agitation. They are commotions, the degrees of upsettingness 
of which are ordinarily characterised as degrees of violence. 
In respect of any one of them it makes sense to say that a person is 
too much disturbed to think or act coherently, too much startled 
to utter a word, or too excited to be able to concentrate. When 
people are said to be speechless with amazement, or paralysed by 
horror, the specific agitation is, in effect, being described as extremely 

This point already indicates part of the difference between 
inclinations and agitations. It would be absurd to say that a person's 
interest in Symbolic Logic was so violent that he could not 
concentrate on Symbolic Logic, or that someone was too 
patriotic to be able to work for his country. Inclinations are not 
disturbances and so cannot be violent or mild disturbances. A man 
whose dominant motive is philanthropy or vanity cannot be 
described as distracted or upset by philanthropy or vanity; for he 
is not distracted or upset at all. He is entirely single-minded. 
Philanthropy and vanity are not gusts or storms. 

As the words 'distraction' and 'agitation' themselves indicate, 
people in these conditions are, to use a hazardous metaphor, subject 
to opposing forces. The two radical kinds of such conflicts are these, 
namely when one inclination runs counter to another, and when an 
inclination is thwarted by the hard facts of the world. A man who 
wants a country life and wants to hold a position which requires 
his living in a town is inclined in opposing directions. A man who 
wants to live and is dying is precluded by the facts from doing what 
he wants. These instances show an important feature of agitations, 
namely that they presuppose the existence of inclinations which are 
not themselves agitations, mucH as eddies presuppose the existence 
of currents which are not themselves eddies. An eddy is an 
interference-condition which requires that there exist, say, two 


currents, or a current and a rock; an agitation requires that there 
exist two inclinations or an inclination and a factual impedi- 
ment. Grief, of one sort, is affection blocked by death; suspense, of 
one sort, is hope interfered with by fear. To be torn between 
patriotism and ambition the victim must be both patriotic and 

Hume, following Hutchcson, was partially alive to this distinc- 
tion between inclinations and agitations, when he noticed that some 
'passions' are intrinsically calm, while others are violent. He noticed 
too that a calm passion might Vanquish' a violent passion. But his 
antithesis of 'calm' and Violent' suggests a mere difference of degree 
between two things of the same kind. In fact, inclinations and 
agitations are things of different kinds. Agitations can be violent 
or mild, inclinations cannot be cither. Inclinations can be relatively 
strong or relatively weak, but this difference is not a difference of 
degree of upsettingness; it is a difference of degree of operativeness, 
which is quite a different sort of difference. Hume's word 'passion' 
was being used to signify things of at least two disparate 

When a man is described as being both very avaricious and 
rather fond of gardening, part of what is being said is that the 
former motive is stronger than the latter, in the sense that much 
more of his internal and external conduct is directed towards self- 
enrichment than is directed towards horticulture. Moreover, when 
situations arise in which a slight financial loss would be accompanied 
by a major improvement to his garden, he is likely to give up the 
orchids and to keep the cash. But more is being said than this. For 
a man to be describable as very avaricious, this propensity must in 
the same way be dominant over all or nearly all his other inclin- 
ations. Even to be described as rather fond of gardening indicates 
that this motive dominates a lot of other inclinations. The strengths 
of motives are their relative strengths vis-h-vis either some other 
specified motive, or every other motive, or most other motives. 
They are determined partly by the way in which the agent 
distributes his internal and external activities and, what is only a 
special case of this, partly by the outcomes of competitions between 
his inclinations, when circumstance? bring about such competitions, 
i.e. when he cannot do two things, to both of which he is inclined. 
Indeed, to say that his motives have such and such strengths is 


simply to say that he tends to distribute his activities in such and 
such ways. 

Sometimes a particular motive is so strong that it always, or 
nearly always, dominates every other motive. The miser or the saint 
would perhaps sacrifice everything, even life itself, rather than lose 
what he most prizes. Such a man would, if the world were kind, 
never be seriously agitated or distracted, since no other inclination 
is strong enough seriously to compete or conflict with his heart's 
desire. He could not be set at loggerheads with himself. 

Now one of the most popular uses of 'emotion', 'emotional', 
'moved', etc., is to describe the agitations, or other moods, in which 
people from time to time are, or to which they are liable. By a 
* highly emotional person' is commonly meant a person who is 
frequently and violently distraught, thrilled or flustered. If, for any 
reason, this is chosen as the standard, or proper sense, of 'emotion', 
then motives or inclinations are not emotions at all. Vanity would 
not be an emotion, though chagrin would; being interested in 
Symbolic Logic would not be an emotion, though being bored by 
other topics would. But there is no point in trying to prune the 
ambiguities of the word 'emotion', so it is better to say that motives 
are, if you like, emotions, but not in the sense in which agitations 
arc emotions. 

We must distinguish between two different ways in which 
we use words like 'worried', 'excited' and 'embarrassed'. 
Sometimes we use them to signify temporary moods, as when we 
say that someone was embarrassed for some minutes, or worried for 
an hour. Sometimes we use them for susceptibilities to moods, as 
when we say that someone is embarrassed by praise, i.e. is regularly 
embarrassed, whenever he is praised. Similarly 'rheumatic' sometimes 
means 'having a bout of rheumatism', sometimes 'prone to have 
bouts of rheumatism' ; and 'Ireland is rainy' may mean that there 
is a good deal of rain there now, or that there usually is a good deal 
of rain there. Clearly, susceptibilities to specific agitations are on the 
same general footing with inclinations, namely that both are general 
propensities and not occurrences. Anxiety about the issue of a war, 
or grief for a dead friend, may characterise a person for months or 
years. He keeps on relapsing iryto anxiety, or he keeps on grieving. 

To say that a person has for days or weeks been vexed by 
someone's criticisms of him is not to say that at every moment of 


that time he has been in the mood to do pettish things, think 
resentful thoughts or register feelings of dudgeon. For he is also 
from time to time in the mood to eat, conduct his business and 
play his games. What it does mean is that he is prone to relapse into 
this mood; he keeps on getting into the frame of mind in which he 
cannot help harping on the injustice which he has suffered; cannot 
help intermittently daydreaming of self-vindications and retalia- 
tions; cannot even seriously try to impute creditable motives to his 
critic, or to recognise any substance in his criticisms. And to say 
that he keeps on relapsing into this mood is to describe him in 
dispositional terms. When susceptibilities to specific moods are 
chronic, they are traits of character. 

But what sort of a description are we giving, when we say 
of someone that he is at a particular time and for a shortish 
or longish period in a particular mood? Part of the answer 
will be given in Section (4) of this chapter. Here it is enough to 
show that though moods, like maladies and states of the weather, 
are relatively short-term conditions; they are not determinate 
incidents, though they issue in determinate incidents. 

From the fact that a person has been having indigestion for an 
hour it does not follow that he has had one long pain or a series 
of short pains during that hour; perhaps he had no pains at all. Nor 
does it follow that he has been feeling sick, or that he spurned his 
food, or that he looked pale. It is enough if some or other 
of these and further appropriate occurrences have taken place. 
There is no unique episode, the occurrence of which is a 
necessary or sufficient condition of having indigestion. 'In- 
digestion' does not, therefore, stand for any such unique 
episode. In the same way a sulky or hilarious person may 
or may not say certain things, talk in a certain tone of voice, grimace 
or gesticulate in certain ways, have certain daydreams or register 
certain feelings. Being sulky or hilarious requires some or other of 
these and further appropriate actions and reactions, but there is no 
one of them which is a necessary or sufficient condition of being 
sulky or hilarious. 'Sulkiness' and 'hilarity' do not, therefore, stand 
for any one specific action or reaction. 

To be sulky is to be in the mood to act or react in some or 
other of certain vaguely describable, though easily recognisable, 
ways, whenever junctures of certain sorts arise. This shows that 


mood words like 'tranquil', and jovial', including words for agita- 
tions, like 'harassed' and 'homesick', stand for liabilities. Even to 
be for a brief moment scandalised or in a panic is, for that moment, 
to be liable to do some such things as stiffen or shriek, or to be 
unable to finish one's sentence, or to remember where the fire-escape 
is to be found. 

Certainly a person is not to be described as being in a particular 
mood unless an adequate number of appropriate episodes actually 
occur. 'He is in a cynical mood', like 'he is nervous', does not 
merely say 'He would . . .' or 'He could not. . . .' It alludes to actual 
behaviour as well as mentioning liabilities; or, rather, it alludes to 
actual behaviour as realising these liabilities. It conjointly explains 
what is actually going on and authorises predictions of what will 
go on, if ... or of what would have gone on, if. ... It is rather 
like saying 'the glass was brittle enough to crack, when that pebble 
struck it.' 

But though agitations, like other moods, are liability conditions, 
they are not propensities to act intentionally in certain ways. 
A woman wrings her hands in anguish, but we do not say that 
anguish is the motive from which she wrings her hands. Nor do we 
inquire with what object an embarrassed man blushes, stammers, 
squirms or fidgets. A keen walker walks because he wants to walk, 
but a perplexed man does not wrinkle his brows because he wants 
or means to wrinkle them, though the actor or hypocrite may 
wrinkle his brows because he wants or means to appear perplexed. 
The reason for these differences is simple. To be distracted is not 
like being thirsty in the presence of drinking-water; it is like being 
thirsty in the absence of water, or in the presence of foul water. 
It is wanting to do something while not being able to do it, or 
wanting to do something and at the same time wanting not to 
do it. It is the conjunction of an inclination to behave in a certain 
way with an inhibition upon behaving in that way. The agitated 
person cannot think what to do, or what to think. Aimless and 
vacillating behaviour, as well as paralysis of behaviour, are symptoms 
of agitations in a way in which making a joke is not a symptom 
but an exercise of a sense of humour. 

Motives then are not agitations, not even mild agitations, nor 
are agitations motives. But agitations presuppose motives, or rather 
they presuppose behaviour trends of which motives are for us the 


most interesting sort. Conflicts of habits with habits, or habits 
with unkind facts, or habits with motives are also commotion- 
conditions. An inveterate smoker on parade, or without any matches, 
or in Lent, is in this plight. There is however a linguistic matter 
which is the source of some confusion. There are some words which 
signify both inclinations and agitations, besides some which never 
signify anything but agitations, and others again which never signify 
anything but inclinations. Words like 'uneasy', 'anxious', 'dis- 
tressed', 'excited', 'startled' always signify agitations. Phrases like 
'fond of fishing', 'keen on gardening', 'bent on becoming a bishop' 
never signify agitations. But words like 'love', 'want', 'desire', 
'proud', 'eager' and many others stand sometimes for simple 
inclinations and sometimes for agitations which are resultant 
upon those inclinations and interferences with the exercise 
of them. Thus 'hungry' in the sense of 'having a good appetite' 
means roughly 'is eating or would cat heartily and without 
sauces, etc.'; but this is different from the sense in winch a person 
might be said to be 'too hungry to concentrate on his work*. 
Hunger in this second sense is a distress, and requires for its existence 
the conjunction of an appetite with the inability to eat. Similarly 
the sense in which a boy is proud of his school is different from the 
sense in which he is speechless with pride on being unexpectedly 
given a place in a school team. 

To remove a possible misapprehension, it must be pointed out 
that not all agitations are disagreeable. People voluntarily subject 
themselves to suspense, fatigue, uncertainty, perplexity, fear and 
surprise in such practices as angling, rowing, travelling, crossword 
puzzles, rock-climbing and joking. That thrills, raptures, surprise, 
amusement and relief are agitations is shown by the fact that we can 
say that someone is too much thrilled, amused or relieved to act, 
think or talk coherently. We are then describing him as being moved 
in the sense of 'stirred' and not as being motivated in the sense of 
'keen to do or get something'. 

(4) Moods. 

We commonly describe people as being at particular times for 
shorter or longer periods in certain moods. We say, for example, 
that a person is depressed, happy, uncommunicative or restless, and 
has been so for minutes or for days. Only when a mood is chronic 


do we use such mood words as descriptions of character. A person 
may be melancholy today, though he is not a melancholic person. 

In saying that he is in a certain mood we are saying sometliing 
fairly general; not that he is all the time or frequently doing one 
unique thing, or having one unique feeling, but that he is in the 
frame of mind to say, do and feel a wide variety of loosely affiliated 
things. A person in a frivolous vein is in the mood to make more 
jokes than usual, to be more tickled than usual by the jokes of 
others, to polish off important matters of business without anxious 
consideration, to put heart and soul into childish games, and so on 

A person's momentary mood is a different sort of tiling from 
the motives which actuate him. We can say of a person that he is 
ambitious, loyal to his party, humane and interested in entomology, 
and that he is all of these tilings, in a certain sense, at the same time. 
Not that such inclinations are synchronous occurrences or states, 
sinct they are not occurrences or states at all. But if a situation were 
to arise in which he could both advance his career and help his 
party, he would do both rather than do either without the other. 

Moods, on the contrary, monopolise. To say that he is in one 
mood is, with reservations for complex moods, to say that he is 
not in any other. To be in the mood to act and react in certain 
ways is also not to be in the mood to act or react in a lot of other 
ways. To be in a conversational mood is not to be in a reading, 
writing or lawn-mowing mood. We talk about moods in terms 
like those, and sometimes borrowed from those, in which we talk 
about the weather, and we sometimes talk about the weather in 
terms borrowed from the language of moods. We do not mention 
moods or the weather, unless they are changeable. If it is showery 
here today, then it is not a settled drizzle here today. If John Doe 
was sullen yesterday evening, then he was not hilarious, sad, serene 
or companionable yesterday evening. Further, somewhat as this 
morning's weather in a given locality made the same sort of 
difference to every section of that neighbourhood, so a person's 
mood during a given period colours all or most of his actions and 
reactions during that period. His work and his play, his talk and 
his grimaces, his appetite and hi? daydreams, all reflect his touchi- 
ness, his joviality or his depression. Any one of them may serve 
as a barometer for all the others. 


Mood words are short-term tendency words, but they 
differ from motive words, not only in the short term of their 
application, but in their use in characterizing the total 'set' of a 
person during that short term. Somewhat as the entire ship is 
cruising south-east, rolling, or vibrating, so the entire person is 
nervous, serene or gloomy. His own corresponding inclination will 
be to describe the whole world as menacing, congenial, or grey. 
If he is jovial, he finds everything jollier than usual; and if he is 
sulky, not only his employer's tone of voice and his own knotted 
shoe-lace seem unjust to him, but everything seems to be doing him 

Mood words are commonly classified as the names of feelings. 
But if the word 'feeling' is used with any strictness, this classification 
is quite erroneous. To say that a person is happy or discontented is 
not merely to say that he has frequent or continuous tingles or 
gnawings; indeed, it is not to say even this, for we should not 
withdraw our statement on hearing that the person had had no 
such feelings, and we should not be satisfied that he was happy or 
discontented merely by his avowal that he had them frequently 
and acutely. They might be symptoms of indigestion or intoxication. 

Feelings, in any strict sense, are things that come and go or 
wax and wane in a few seconds; they stab or they grumble; we 
feel them all over us or else in a particular part. The victim may 
say that he keeps on having tweaks, or that they come only at fairly 
long intervals. No one would describe his happiness or discontent- 
ment in any such terms. He says that he feels happy or discontented, 
but not that he keeps on feeling, or that he steadily feels happy or 
discontented. If a person is too gay to brood over a rebuff, he is not 
undergoing so violent a feeling that he can think of nothing else, 
and therefore not of the rebuff; on the contrary, he enjoys much 
more than usual all the things he does and all the thoughts he 
thinks, including thoughts of the rebuff. He does not mind thinking 
of it as much as he would usually do. 

The main motives for classifying moods as feelings seem to be 
twofold, (i) Theorists have felt constrained to put them into one of 
their three permitted pigeon-holes, Thought, Will and Feeling; and 
as moods will not fit either of the first two holes, they must be made 
to fit the third. We need not spend time on this motive. (2) A person 
in a lazy, frivolous or depressed mood may, with perfect idiomatic 


correctness, avow his frame of mind by saying 'I feel lazy', or 'I am 
beginning to feel frivolous', or 1 still feel depressed'. How can such 
expressions be idiomatically correct unless they report the occurrence 
of feelings? If 1 feel a tingle' announces a tingling feeling, how can 
'I feel energetic' help announcing an energy feeling? 

But this instance begins to make the argument ring unplausibly. 
Energy is obviously not a feeling. Similarly, if the patient says, 1 
feel ill', or 'I feel better', no one will therefore classify illness or con- 
valescence as feelings. 'He felt stupid', 'capable of climbing the tree', 
'about to faint' are other uses of the verb 'to feel', where the accusatives 
to the verb are not the names of feelings. 

Before coming back to the association of 'feel' with mood words, 
we should consider some differences between such avowals as 'I 
feel a tickle' and 'I feel ill'. If a person feels a tickle, he has a tickle, 
and if he has a tickle, he feels it. But if he feels ill, he may not be 
ill, and if he is ill, he may not feel ill. Doubtless a person's feeling 
ill is some evidence for his being ill; but feeling a tickle is not 
evidence for his having a tickle, any more than striking a blow is 
evidence for the occurrence of a blow. In 'feel a tickle' and 'strike a 
blow', 'tickle' and 'blow' are cognate accusatives to the verbs 'feel' 
and 'strike'. The verb and its accusative are two expressions for the 
same thing, as are the verbs and their accusatives in 'I dreamt a 
dream' and 'I asked a question'. 

But 'ill' and 'capable of climbing the tree' are not cognate 
accusatives to the verb 'to feel' ; so they are not in grammar bound 
to signify feelings, as 'tickle' is in grammar bound to signify a 
feeling. Another purely grammatical point shows the same thing. 
It is indifferent whether I say 'I feel a tickle' or 'I have a tickle'; 
but 'I have . . .' cannot be completed by '. . . ill', '. . . capable of 
climbing the tree', '. . . happy' or '. . . discontented'. If we try to 
restore the verbal parallel by bringing in the appropriate abstract 
nouns, we find a further incongruity; 'I feel happiness', 'I feel 
illness' or 'I feel ability to climb the tree', if they mean anything, 
do not mean at all what is meant by 'I feel happy, ill, or capable of 
climbing the tree'. 

On the other hand, besides these differences between the different 
uses of 'I feel . . .' there are impfirtant analogies as well. If a person 
says that he has a tickle, we do not ask for his evidence, or require 
him to make quite sure. Announcing a tickle is not proclaiming 


the results of ail investigation. A tickle is not something established 
by careful witnessing, or something inferred from clues, nor do 
we praise for their powers of observation or reasoning people who 
let us know that they feel tickles, tweaks and flutters. Just 
the same is true of avowals of moods. If a person says 'I feel bored', 
or 1 feel depressed', we do not ask him for his evidence, or request 
him to make sure. We may accuse him of shamming to us or to 
himself, but we do not accuse him of having been careless in his 
observations or rash in his inferences, since we do not think that his 
avowal was a report of observations or conclusions. He has not 
been a good or a bad detective; he has not been a detective at 
all. Nothing would surprise us more than to hear him say 'I feel 
depressed' in the alert and judicious tone of voice of a detective, 
a microscopist, or a diagnostician, though this tone of voice is 
perfectly congruous with 'I was feeling depressed' and 'he feels 
depressed'. If the avowal is to do its job, it must be said in a depressed 
tone of voice; it must be blurted out to a sympathizer, not reported 
to an investigator. Avowing 'I feel depressed' is doing one of 
the things, namely one of the conversational things, that depression 
is the mood to do. It is not a piece of scientific premiss-providing, 
but a piece of conversational moping. That is why, if we are 
suspicious, we do not ask 'Fact or fiction?', 'True or false?', 'Reliable 
or unreliable?', but 'Sincere or shammed?' The conversational 
avowal of moods requires not acumen, but openness. It comes from 
the heart, not from the head. It is not discovery, but voluntary 

Of course people have to learn how to use avowal expressions 
appropriately and they may not learn these lessons very well. They 
learn them from ordinary discussions of the moods of others and from 
such more fruitful sources as novels and the theatre. They learn from 
the same sources how to cheat both other people and themselves by 
making sham avowals in the proper tones of voice and with the 
other proper histrionic accompaniments. 

If we now raise the epistemologist's question 'How does a 
person find out what mood he is in?' we can answer that if, as 
may not be the case, he finds it out at all, he finds it out very much 
as we find it out. As we have seen* he does not groan 'I feel bored' 
because he has found out that he is bored, any more than the 
sleepy man yawns because he has found out that he is sleepy. 


Rather, somewhat as the sleepy man finds out that he is sleepy 
by finding, among other tilings, that he keeps on yawning, so the 
bored man finds out that he is bored, if he does find this out, by 
finding that among other things he glumly says to others and to 
himself 1 feel bored' and 'How bored I feel'. Such a blurted avowal 
is not merely one fairly reliable index among others. It is the 
first and the best index, since being worded and voluntarily 
uttered, it is meant to be heard and it is meant to be understood. 
It calls for no sleuth-work. 

In some respects avowals of moods like 'I feel cheerful' more 
closely resemble announcements of sensations like 'I feel a tickle' than 
they resemble utterances like 'I feel better' or C I feel capable of 
climbing the tree'. Just as it would be absurd to say 'I feel a 
tickle but maybe I haven't one', so, in ordinary cases, it would be 
absurd to say 1 feel cheerful but maybe I am not'. But there would 
be no absurdity in saying 1 feel better but perhaps I am worse', 
or 'I feel capable of climbing the tree but maybe I could not'. 

This difference can be brought out in another way. Sometimes 
it is natural to say *I feel as if I could eat a horse', or 'I feel as if my 
temperature has returned to normal'. But it would seldom if ever 
be natural to say 'I feel as if I were in the dumps', or 1 feel as if I 
were bored', any more than it would be natural to say 'I feel as 
if I had a pain'. Not much would be gained by discussing at length 
why we use the English verb 'to feel' in these different ways. 
There are hosts of other ways in which it is also used. I can say *I 
felt a lump in the mattress', 'I felt cold', 1 felt queer', 'I felt my jaw- 
muscles stiffen', 'I felt my gorge rise', 'I felt my chin with my thumb', 
'I felt in vain for the lever', 'I felt as if something important was 
about to happen', 'I felt that there was a flaw somewhere in the 
argument', 'I felt quite at home', 'I felt that he was angry'. A feature 
common to most of these uses is that the speaker does not want 
further questions to be put. They would be either unanswerable 
questions, or unaskable questions. That he felt it is enough to settle 
some debates ; that he merely felt it is enough to show that debates 
should not even begin. 

Names of moods, then, are not the names of feelings. But to be 
in a particular mood is to be in'the mood, among other things, to 
feel certain sorts of feelings in certain sorts of situations. To be in a lazy 
mood, is. among other things, to tend to have sensations of lassitude 


in the limbs when jobs have to be done, to have cosy feelings of 
relaxation when the deck-chair is resumed, not to have electricity 
feelings when the game begins, and so forth. But we are not thinking 
primarily of these feelings when we say that we feel lazy; in fact, 
we seldom pay much heed to sensations of these kinds, save when 
they are abnormally acute. 

Are names of moods names of emotions ? The only tolerable 
reply is that of course they are, in the sense that some people some of 
the time use the word 'emotion'. But then we must add that in this 
sense an emotion is not something that can be segregated from think- 
ing, daydreaming, voluntarily doing things, grimacing or feeling 
pangs and itches. To have the emotion, in this sense, which we 
ordinarily refer to as 'being bored', is to be in the mood to think 
certain sorts of thoughts, and not to think other sorts, to yawn and 
not to chuckle, to converse with stilted politeness, and not to talk with 
animation, to feel flaccid and not to feel resilient. Boredom is not 
some unique distinguishable ingredient, scene or feature of all that its 
victim is doing and undergoing; rather it is the temporary 
complexion of that totality. It is not like a gust, a sunbeam, a 
shower or the temperature; it is like the morning's weather. 

(5) Agitations and Feelings. 

In an early part of this chapter, I undertook to try to bring out 
what is meant by describing, for example, a certain glow as a 
glow of pride, or a qualm as a qualm of anxiety. It is helpful, to 
begin with, to notice that, anyhow commonly, the word which 
completes the phrase 'pang of . . .' or 'chill of . . .' is the name of an 
agitation. I shall now argue that feelings are intrinsically connected 
with agitations and are not intrinsically connected with inclinations, 
save in so far as inclinations are factors in agitations. But I am not 
trying to establish a novel psychological hypothesis; I am trying 
to show only that it is part of the logic of our descriptions of 
feelings that they are signs of agitations and are not exercises of 

We have seen that anyhow many of the words used to designate 
feelings are also used to designate bodily sensations. A flutter may 
be a flutter of anticipation or \t may be a flutter of bodily 
exhaustion; a man may squirm either with embarrassment or 
with stomach-ache. A child sometimes does not know whether the 


lump he feels in his throat is a sign of misery, or a sign that he is 
sickening for something. 

Before considering our special problem, 'By what criteria do we 
come to mark off some feelings as feelings 'of surprise* or 'of 
disgust' ?', let us consider the prior question, 'By what criteria do we 
come to class certain bodily sensations as, for example, twinges of 
toothache or qualms of mal de mer? Indeed, by what criteria do we 
come to locate or mis-locate sensations as being, in some sense 
of 'in', in the right knee or in the pit of the stomach? The answer 
is that we learn both to locate sensations and to give their crude 
physiological diagnoses from a rule-of-thumb experimental process, 
reinforced, normally, by lessons taught by others. The pain is in 
the finger in which I see the needle; it is in that finger by the sucking 
of which alone the pain is alleviated. Similarly the dull load which 
I feel, and locate in the stomach, comes to be recognised as a sign of 
indigestion, because it is correlated with loss of appetite, a liability 
to subsequent nausea, alleviation by certain medicines and hot-water 
bottles. Phrases like 'a twinge of toothache' already embody causal 
hypotheses, and the embodied hypotheses are sometimes wrong. A 
wounded soldier may say that he feels a twinge of rheumatism in 
his right leg, when he has no right leg, and when 'rheumatism' is the 
wrong diagnosis of the pain he feels. 

Similarly, when a person reports a chill of disquiet or a tug of 
commiseration, he is not merely reporting a feeling; he is giving 
a diagnosis of it, but a diagnosis which is not in terms of a physio- 
logical disturbance. In some cases his diagnosis may be erroneous; 
he may diagnose as a twinge of remorse what is really a twinge of 
fear, and what he takes to be a sinking feeling of boredom may 
actually be a sinking feeling of inferiority. He may even ascribe to 
dyspepsia a feeling which is really a sign of anxiety, or ascribe to ex- 
citement fluttering sensations caused by over-smoking. Naturally 
such mis-diagnoses are more common in children than in grown-ups, 
and in persons in untried situations than in persons living their 
charted lives. But the point here being made is that whether we are 
attaching a sensation to a physiological condition or attaching a 
feeling to an emotional condition, we are applying a causal hypoth- 
esis. Pains do not arrive already hall-marked 'rheumatic', nor do 
throbs arrive already hall-marked 'compassionate'. 

Next, it would be absurd to speak of someone having a sensation, 


or a feeling, on purpose; or to ask someone what he had a twinge 
for. Rather, the occurrence of a sensation or of a feeling is accounted 
for by saying, for example, that the electric current gave me a 
tingling sensation, or that the sound of the siren gave me a squirming 
feeling in my stomach, where no one would adduce a motive for 
feeling this tingle or that squirm. Feelings, in other words, are not 
among the sorts of things of which it makes sense to ask from what 
motives they issue. The same is true, for the same reasons, of the 
other signs of agitations. Neither my twinges nor my winces, 
neither my squirming feelings nor my bodily squirmings, neither 
my feelings of relief nor my sighs of relief, are things which I do 
for a reason; nor, in consequence, are they things which I can be 
said to do cleverly or stupidly, successfully or unsuccessfully, 
carefully or carelessly or indeed do at all. They are neither 
well managed nor ill managed; they are not managed at all, 
though the actor's winces and the hypocrite's sighs are well 
or ill managed. It would be nonsense to say that someone 
tried to have a twinge, though not nonsense to say that he tried to 
induce one. 

This point shows why we were right to suggest above that 
feelings do not belong directly to simple inclinations. An 
inclination is a certain sort of proneness or readiness to do certain 
sorts of things on purpose. These things are therefore describable 
as being done from that motive. They are the exercises of the 
disposition that we call 'a motive'. Feelings arc not from motives 
and arc therefore not among the possible exercises of such pro- 
pensities. The widespread theory that a motive such as vanity, or 
affection, is in the first instance a disposition to experience certain 
specific feelings is therefore absurd. There are, of course, tendencies 
to have feelings; being vertiginous and rheumatic are such 
tendencies. But we do not try to modify tendencies of these kinds 
by sermons. 

What feelings do causally belong to are agitations; they are 
signs of agitations in the same sort of way as stomach-aches are 
signs of indigestion. Roughly, we do not, as the prevalent theory 
holds, act purposively because we experience feelings; we experience 
feelings, as we wince and shudder* because we are inhibited from 
acting purposively. 

It is worth remarking, before we leave this part of the subject 


that we can induce in ourselves genuine and acute feelings 
by merely imagining ourselves in agitating circumstances. Novel- 
readers and theatregoers feel real pangs and real liftings of the heart, 
just as they may shed real tears and scowl unfeigned scowls. But 
their distresses and indignations are feigned. They do not affect 
their owners' appetites for chocolates, or change the tones of voice 
of their conversations. Sentimentalists are people who indulge in 
induced feelings without acknowledging the fictitiousness of their 

(6) Enjoying and Wanting. 

The words 'pleasure' and 'desire' play a large role in the 
terminology of moral philosophers and of some schools of 
psychology. It is important briefly to indicate some of the differences 
between the supposed logic of their use and its actual logic. 

First, it seems to be generally supposed that 'pleasure' and 
'desire' are always used to signify feelings. And there certainly are 
feelings which can be described as feelings of pleasure and desire. 
Some thrills, shocks, glows and ticklings are feelings of delight, 
surprise, relief and amusement; and hankerings, itches, gna wings 
and yearnings are signs that something is both wanted and missed. 
But the transports, surprises, reliefs and distresses of which such 
feelings arc diagnosed, or mis-diagnosed, as signs are not themselves 
feelings; they are agitations or moods, just as arc the 
transports and distresses which a child betrays by his skips and his 
whimpers. Nostalgia is an agitation and one which can be 
called in one sense a 'desire' ; but it is not merely a feeling or series 
of feelings. Besides experiencing these, the homesick person 
also cannot help thinking and dreaming of home, resisting sugges- 
tions that he should prolong his absence and being half-hearted 
about recreations of which he is ordinarily fond. If these and similar 
trends were not present, we should not call him homesick, whatever 
feelings were reported. 

'Pleasure', then, is sometimes used to denote special kinds of 
moods, such as elation, joy and amusement. It is accordingly used 
to complete the descriptions of certain feelings, such as flutters, glows 
and thrills. But there is another ^ense in which we say that a person 
who is so absorbed in some activity, such as golf or argument, that 
he is reluctant to stop, or even to think of anything else, is 'taking 


pleasure in' or 'enjoying' doing what he is doing, though he is in no 
degree convulsed or beside himself, and though he is not, therefore, 
experiencing any particular feelings. 

Doubtless the absorbed golfer experiences numerous flutters and 
glows of rapture, excitement and self-approbation in the course 
of his game. But when asked whether or not he had enjoyed the 
periods of the game between the occurrences of such feelings, he 
would obviously reply that he had, for he had enjoyed the whole 
game. He would at no moment of it have welcomed an interruption ; 
he was never inclined to turn his thoughts or conversation from the 
circumstances of the game to other matters. He did not have to 
try to concentrate on the game. He concentrated on it without 
lecturing or adjuring himself to do so. It would have been, and 
perhaps was, an effort to concentrate on anything else. 

In this sense, to enjoy doing something, to want to do it and not 
to want to do anything else are different ways of phrasing the 
same tiling. And just this linguistic fact illustrates an important 
point. A hankering is not the same as, or at all similar to, 
a flutter or a glow. But that someone has an inclination to do 
something that he is doing and no inclination not to do it can be 
signified indifferently by 'he enjoys doing it' and by 'he is doing 
what he wants to do' and by 'he does not want to stop'. It is a 
fulfilled propensity to act or react, where these are heeded actions 
and reactions. 

We see then that 'pleasure' can be used to signify at least two 
quite different types of things. 

(1) There is the sense in which it is commonly replaced by the 
verbs 'enjoy' and 'like'. To say that a person has been enjoying 
digging is not to say that he has been both digging and doing or 
experiencing something else as a concomitant or effect of the 
digging; it is to say that he dug with his whole heart in his 
task, i.e. that he dug, wanting to dig and not wanting to do 
anything else (or nothing) instead. His digging was a propensity- 
fulfilment. His digging was his pleasure, and not a vehicle of his 

(2) There is the sense of 'pleasure' in which it is commonly 
replaced by such words as 'delight^, 'transport', 'rapture', 'exulta- 
tion' and joy'. These are names of moods signifying agita- 
tions. 'Too delighted to talk coherently' and 'crazy with joy' are 


legitimate expressions. Connected with such moods, there exist cer- 
tain feelings which are commonly described as 'thrills of 
pleasure', 'glows of pleasure' and so forth. It should be noticed that 
though we speak of thrills of pleasure coursing through us, or of 
glows of pleasure warming our hearts, we do not ordinarily speak 
of pleasures or of pleasure coursing through us or warming our 
hearts. Only theorists are misguided enough to classify either delight 
or enjoyment with feelings. That this classification is misguided is 
shown by the facts (i) that enjoying digging is not both digging and 
having a (pleasant) feeling; and (2) that delight, amusement, etc. are 
moods, and that moods are not feelings. It is also shown by the 
following considerations. It always makes sense to ask about 
any sensation or feeling whether its owner enjoyed having 
it, disliked having it or did not care one way or the other 
about it. Most sensations and feelings are neither enjoyed nor 
disliked. It is exceptional to heed them at all. Now this applies 
to thrills, flutters and glows just as much as to tingles. So, even 
though what a person has felt is properly described as a thrill of 
pleasure or, more specifically, as a tickle of amusement, it is still a 
proper question whether he not only enjoyed the joke but also 
enjoyed the tickled feeling that it gave him. Nor should we be 
mucla surprised to hear him reply that he was so much delighted 
by the joke that the 'tickled' feeling was quite uncomfortable; or 
to hear someone else, who has been crying from grief, admit that 
the crying itself had been slightly agreeable. I discuss in 
Section (4) of this chapter the two main motives for misclassifying 
moods as feelings. The motives for ranking 'enjoy' as a word for a 
feeling are parallel, though not identical, since enjoying is not a mood. 
One can be in the mood, or not in the mood, to enjoy something. 

Similar considerations, which need not be developed, would 
show that 'dislike', 'want' and 'desire' do not denote pangs, itchings 
or gnawings. (It should be mentioned that 'pain', in the sense in 
which I have pains in my stomach, is not the opposite of 'pleasure'. 
In this sense, a pain is a sensation of a special sort, which we ordinarily 
dislike having). 

Liking and disliking, joy and grief, desire and aversion are, then, 
not 'internal' episodes which* their owner witnesses, but his 
associates do not witness. They are not episodes and so are not 
the sorts of things which can be witnessed or unwitnessed. Certainly 


a person can usually, but not always, tell without research whether he 
enjoys something or not, and what his present mood is. But so can 
his associates, provided that he is conversationally open with them 
and does not wear a mask. If he is conversationally open neither 
with them nor with himself, both will have to do some research 
to find out these things, and they are more likely to succeed than he. 

(7) The criteria of motives. 

So far it has been argued that to explain an action as done from 
a certain motive is not to correlate it with an occult cause, but to 
subsume it under a propensity or behaviour-trend. But this is not 
enough. To explain an action as due to habit, or as due to an 
instinct, or a reflex, squares with this formula, yet we distinguish 
actions done, say, from vanity or affection from those done auto- 
matically in one of these other ways. I shall restrict myself to trying 
to indicate some of the criteria by which we . would ordinarily 
decide that an agent had done something not from force of habit but 
from a specified motive. But it must not be supposed that the two 
classes are demarcated from one another as an equatorial day from 
an equatorial night. They shade into one another as an English day 
shades into an English night. Kindliness shades into politeness 
through the twilight of considerateness, and politeness shades into 
drill through the twilight of etiquette. The drill of a keen soldier 
is not quite like the drill of a merely docile soldier. 

When we say that someone acts in a certain way from sheer 
force of habit, part of what we have in mind is this, that in similar 
circumstances he always acts in just this way; that he acts in this 
way whether or not he is attending to what he is doing ; that he is 
not exercising care or trying to correct or improve his performance; 
and that he may, after the act is over, be quite unaware that he has 
done it. Such actions are often given the metaphorical title 
'automatic'. Automatic habits are often deliberately inculcated by 
sheer drill, and only by some counter-drill is a formed habit 

But when we say that someone acts in a certain way from 
ambition or sense of justice, we mean by implication to deny that 
the action was merely automatic. n particular we imply that the 
agent was in some way thinking or heeding what he was doing, 
and would not have acted in that way, if he had not been thinking 


what he was doing. But the precise force of this expression 
'thinking what he was doing* is somewhat elusive. I certainly 
can run upstairs two stairs at a time from force of habit and 
at the same time notice that I am doing so and even consider 
how the act is done. I can be a spectator of my habitual and 
of my reflex actions and even a diagnostician of them, without 
these actions ceasing to be automatic. Notoriously such attention 
sometimes upsets the automatism. 

Conversely, actions done from motives can still be naive, in 
the sense that the agent has not coupled, and perhaps cannot couple, 
his action with a secondary operation of telling himself or the 
company what he is doing, or why he is doing it. Indeed even when a 
person does pass internal or spoken comments upon his current 
action, this second operation of commenting is ordinarily itself 
naive. He cannot also be commenting on his commentaries ad 
infinitum. The sense in which a person is thinking what he is doing, 
when his action is to be classed not as automatic but as done from 
a motive, is that he is acting more or less carefully, critically, con- 
sistently and purposefully, adverbs which do not signify the prior 
or concomitant occurrence of extra operations of resolving, planning 
or cogitating, but only that the action taken is itself done not 
absent-mindedly but in a certain positive frame of mind. The 
description of this frame of mind need not mention any episodes 
other than this act itself, though it is not exhausted in that mention. 

In short, the class of actions done from motives coincides with 
the class of actions describable as more or less intelligent. Any 
act done from a motive can be appraised as relatively sagacious or 
stupid, and vice versa. Actions done from sheer force of habit are 
not characterized as sensible or silly, though of course the agent 
may show sense or silliness in forming, or in not eradicating, the 

But this brings up a further point. Two actions done from the 
same motive may exhibit different degrees of competence, and two 
similar actions exhibiting the same degree of competence may be 
done from different motives. To be fond of rowing does not entail 
being accomplished or effective at it, and, of two people equally 
effective at it, one may be rowing for the sport and the other for the 
sake of health or glory. That is, the abilities with which things are 
done are personal characteristics of a different kind from the motives 


or inclinations which are the reasons why they are done; and 
we distinguish acts done from force of habit from non-automatic 
actions by the fact that the latter are exercises of both at once. 
Things done quite absent-mindedly are done neither with methods 
nor for reasons, though they may be efficacious and they may have 
complex procedures. 

In ascribing a specific motive to a person we are describing the 
sorts of things that he tends to try to do or bring about, while in 
ascribing to him a specific competence we are describing the 
methods and the effectiveness of the methods by which he conducts 
these attempts. It is the distinction between aims and techniques. 
The more common idiom of 'ends and means' is often misleading. 
If a man makes a sarcastic joke, his performance cannot be split up 
into steps and landings, yet the judgment that it was made from 
hatred is still distinguishable from the judgment that it was made 
with ingenuity. 

Aristotle realized that in talking about motives we are talking 
about dispositions of a certain sort, a sort different from com- 
petences; he realized too that any motive, unlike any competence, 
is a propensity of which it makes sense to say that in a given man 
in a given walk of life this motive is too strong, too weak, or neither 
too strong, nor too weak. He seems to suggest that in appraising 
the moral, as distinct from the technical, merits and demerits of 
actions we are commenting on the excessive, proper or inadequate 
strength of the inclinations of which they are the exercises. Now 
we are not concerned here with ethical questions, or with questions 
about the nature of ethical questions. What is relevant to our 
inquiry is die fact, recognised by Aristotle as cardinal, that the 
relative strengths of inclinations are alterable. Changes of environ- 
ment, companionship, health and age, external criticisms and 
examples can all modify the balance of power between the 
inclinations which constitute one side of a person's character. But 
so can his own concern about this balance modify it. A person may 
find that he is too fond of gossip, or not attentive enough to other 
people's comfort, and he may, though he need not, develop a 
second order inclination to strengthen some of his weak, and weaken 
some of his strong propensities^ He may become not merely 
academically critical, but executively corrective of his own character. 
Of course, his new second order motive for schooling his first order 


motives may still be a prudential or economic one. An ambitious 
hotel-proprietor might drill himself in equability, considerateness 
and probity solely from the desire to increase his income; and his 
techniques of self-regimentation might be more effective than those 
employed by a person whose ideal was loftier. In the case, however, 
of the hotel-proprietor there would be one inclination the relative 
strength of which vis-a-vis the others had been left uncriticized 
and unregulated, namely his desire to get rich. This motive might 
be, though it need not be, too strong in him. If so, we might call 
him 'shrewd', but we should not yet call him Vise'. To generalize 
this point, a part of what is meant by saying of any inclination that 
it is too strong in a given agent is that the agent tends to act from 
that inclination even when he is also inclined to weaken that 
inclination by deliberately acting differently. He is a slave of nicotine, 
or of allegiance to a political party, if he can never bring himself 
to take enough of the serious steps by which alone the strength 
of these motives could be reduced, even though he has some second 
order inclination to reduce it. What is here being described is 
part of what is ordinarily called 'self-control', and when what is 
ordinarily miscalled an 'impulse' is irresistible and therefore 
uncontrollable, it is a tautology to say that it is too strong. 

(8) The Reasons and the Causes of Actions. 

I have argued that to explain an action as done from a specified 
motive or inclination is not to describe the action as the effect of 
a specified cause. Motives are not happenings and are not therefore 
of the right type to be causes. The expansion of a motive-expression 
is a law-like sentence and not a report of an event. 

But the general fact that a person is disposed to act in such and 
such ways in such and such circumstances does not by itself account 
for his doing a particular thing at a particular moment; any more 
than the fact that the glass was brittle accounts for its fracture at 
10 p.m. As the impact of the stone at 10 p.m. caused the glass to 
break, so some antecedent of an action causes or occasions the 
agent to perform it when and where he does so. For example, 
a man passes his neighbour the salt from politeness; but his 
politeness is merely his inclination to pass the salt when it is 
wanted, as well as to perform a thousand other courtesies of the 
same general kind. So besides the question 'for what reason did he 



pass the salt' ? there is the quite different question 'what made him 
pass the salt at that moment to that neighbour'? This question is 
probably answered by 'he heard his neighbour ask for it', or 'he 
noticed his neighbour's eye wandering over the table', or something 
of the sort. 

We are perfectly familiar with the sorts of happenings which 
induce or occasion people to do things. If we were not, we could not 
get them to do what we wish, and the ordinary dealings between 
people could not exist. Customers could not purchase, officers 
could not command, friends could not converse, or children play, 
unless they knew how to get other people and themselves to do 
things at particular junctures. 

The object of mentioning these important trivialities is twofold; 
first, to show that an action's having a cause does not conflict with 
its having a motive, but is already prescribed for in the protasis of 
the hypothetical proposition which states the motive; and second, 
to show that, so far from our wanting to hear of occult or ghostly 
causes of actions, we already know just what sorts of familiar and 
usually public happenings are the things which get people to act 
in particular ways at particular times. 

If the doctrine of the ghost in the machine were true, not only 
would people be absolute mysteries to one another, they would 
also be absolutely intractable. In fact they are relatively tractable 
and relatively easy to understand. 

(9) Conclusion. 

There are two quite different senses of 'emotion', in which we 
explain people's behaviour by reference to emotions. In the first 
sense we are referring to the motives or inclinations from which 
more or less intelligent actions are done. In the second sense we are 
referring to moods, including the agitations or perturbations of 
which some aimless movements are signs. In neither of these senses 
arc we asserting or implying that the overt behaviour is the effect 
of a felt turbulence in the agent's stream of consciousness. In a third 
sense of 'emotion', pangs and twinges are feelings or emotions, 
but they are not, save per accidens, things by reference to which we 
explain behaviour. They are things,for which diagnoses are required, 
not things required for the diagnoses of behaviour. Impulses, 
described as feelings which impel actions, are para-mechanical 


myths. This does not mean that people never act on the impulse 
of the moment, but only that we should not swallow the traditional 
stories about the occult antecedents of either deliberate or impulsive 

Consequently, though the description of the higher-level 
behaviour of people certainly requires mention of emotions in the 
first two senses, this mention does not entail inferences to occult 
inner states or processes. The discovery by me of your motives 
and moods is not analogous to unchcckable water-divining ; it is partly 
analogous to my inductions to your habits, instincts and reflexes, 
partly to my inferences to your maladies and your tipsiness. But, in 
favourable circumstances, I find out your inclinations and your 
moods more directly than this. I hear and understand your 
conversational avowals, your interjections and your tones of voice; 
I see and understand your gestures and facial expressions. I say 
'understand' in no metaphorical sense, for even interjections, tones 
of voice, gestures and grimaces are modes of communication. We 
learn to produce them, not indeed from schooling, but from imitation. 
We know how to sham by putting them on and we know, in some 
degree, how to avoid giving ourselves away by assuming masks. 
It is not only their vocabularies that make foreigners difficult to 
understand. My discovery of my own motives and moods is not 
different in kind, though I am ill placed to see my own grimaces 
and gestures, or to hear my own tones of voice. Motives and moods 
are not the sorts of things which could be among the direct intima- 
tions of consciousness, or among the objects of introspection, as these 
factitious forms of Privileged Access are ordinarily described. They 
arenot'experiences',anymorethanhabitsor maladies are 'experiences'. 



(i) Foreword. 

I HAVE already had occasion to argue that a number of the words 
which we commonly use to describe and explain people's behaviour 
signify dispositions and not episodes. To say that a person 
knows something, or aspires to be something, is not to say that he 
is at a particular moment in process of doing or undergoing 
anything, but that he is able to do certain things, when the need 
arises, or that he is prone to do and feel certain things in situations 
of certain sorts. 

This is, in itself, hardly more than a dull fact (almost) of ordinary 
grammar. The verbs 'know*, 'possess' and 'aspire' do not behave 
like the verbs 'run', 'wake up' or 'tingle' ; we cannot say 'he Jcnew 
so and so for two minutes, then stopped and started again after a 
breather', 'he gradually aspired to be a bishop', or 'he is now engaged 
in possessing a bicycle'. Nor is it a peculiarity of people that we 
describe them in dispositional terms. We use such terms just as 
much for describing animals, insects, crystals and atoms. We are 
constantly wanting to talk about what can be relied on to happen 
as well as to talk about what is actually happening; we are constantly 
wanting to give explanations of incidents as well as to report them; 
and we are constantly wanting to tell how things can be managed 
as well as to tell what is now going on in them. Moreover, merely 
to classify a word as signifying a disposition is not yet to say much 
more about it than to say that it is not used for an episode. 
There are lots of different kinds of dispositional words. Hobbies are 
not the same sort of thing as habits, and both are different from 
skills, from mannerisms, from fashions, from phobias and from 
trades. Nest-building is a different sort of property from being 
feathered, and being a conductor of electricity is a different sort of 
property from being elastic. 



There is, however, a special point in drawing attention to the 
fact that many of the cardinal concepts in terms of which we describe 
specifically human behaviour are dispositional concepts, since the 
vogue of the para-mechanical legend has led many people to 
ignore the ways in which these concepts actually behave and to 
construe them instead as items in the descriptions of occult causes 
and effects. Sentences embodying these dispositional words have been 
interpreted as being categorical reports of particular but unwitness- 
able matters of fact instead of being testable, open hypothetical 
and what I shall call 'semi-hypothetical' statements. The old error 
of treating the term 'Force' as denoting an occult force-exerting 
agency has been given up in the physical sciences, but its relatives 
survive in many theories of mind and are perhaps only moribund 
in biology. 

The scope of this point must not be exaggerated. The vocabulary 
we use for describing specifically human behaviour does not 
consist only of dispositional words. The judge, the teacher, the 
novelist, the psychologist and the man in the street are bound also 
to employ a large battery of episodic words when talking about 
how people do, or should, act and react. These episodic words, 
no less than dispositional words, belong to a variety of types, and we 
shall find that obliviousness to some of these differences of type has 
both fostered, and been fostered by, the identification of the mental 
with the ghostly. Later in this chapter I shall discuss two main types 
of mental episodic-words. I do not suggest that there are no 

(2) The Logic of Dispositional Statements 

When a cow is said to be a ruminant, or a man is said to be a 
cigarette-smoker, it is not being said that the cow is ruminating 
now or that the man is smoking a cigarette now. To be a ruminant 
is to tend to ruminate from time to time, and to be a cigarette-smoker 
is to be in the habit of smoking cigarettes. 

The tendency to ruminate and the habit of cigarette-smoking 
could not exist, unless there were such processes or episodes as 
ruminating and smoking cigarettes. 'He is smoking a cigarette now* 
does not say the same sort of thirfg as 'he is a cigarette-smoker', but 
unless statements like the first were sometimes true, statements like 
the second could not be true. The phrase 'smoke a cigarette' has 


both episodic uses and, derivative from them, tendency-stating 
uses. But this does not always occur. There are many tendency- 
stating and capacity-stating expressions which cannot also be 
employed in reports of episodes. We can say that something is 
elastic, but when required to say in what actual events this 
potentiality is realised, we have to change our vocabulary and say 
that the object is contracting after being stretched, is just going to 
expand after being compressed, or recently bounced on sudden 
impact. There is no active verb corresponding to 'elastic', in the 
way in which 'is ruminating' corresponds to 'is a ruminant'. Nor 
is the reason for this non-parallelism far to seek. There are 
several different reactions which we expect of an elastic object, 
while there is, roughly, only one sort of behaviour that we expect 
of a creature that is described to us as a ruminant. Similarly there is a 
wide range of different actions and reactions predictable from the 
description of someone as 'greedy', while there is, roughly, only 
one sort of action predictable from the description of someone as 
'a cigarette-smoker'. In short, some dispositional words are highly 
generic or determinable, while others are highly specific or 
determinate; the verbs with which we report the different exercises 
of generic tendencies, capacities and liabilities are apt to differ 
from the verbs with which we name the dispositions, while the 
episodic verbs corresponding to the highly specific dispositional 
verbs are apt to be the same. A baker can be baking now, but a 
grocer is not described as 'grocing' now, but only as selling sugar 
now, or weighing tea now, or wrapping up butter now. There are 
halfway houses. With qualms we will speak of a doctor as engaged 
now in doctoring someone, though not of a solicitor as now 
solicitoring, but only as now drafting a will, or now defending a 

Dispositional words like 'know', 'believe', 'aspire', 'clever' and 
'humorous' are determinable dispositional words. They signify 
abilities, tendencies or pronenesses to do, not things of one unique 
kind, but things of lots of different kinds. Theorists who recognise 
that 'know' and 'believe' are commonly used as dispositional verbs 
are apt not to notice this point, but to assume that there must be 
corresponding acts of knowing br apprehending and states of 
believing; and the fact that one person can never find another 
person executing such wrongly postulated acts, or being in 


such states is apt to be accounted for by locating these acts and 
states inside the agent's secret grotto. 

A similar assumption would lead to the conclusion that since 
being a solicitor is a profession, there must occur professional 
activities of solicitoring, and, as a solicitor is never found doing any 
such unique tiling, but only lots of different tilings like drafting 
wills, defending clients and witnessing signatures, his unique 
professional activity of solicitoring must be one which he performs 
behind locked doors. The temptation to construe dispositional 
words as episodic words and this other temptation to postulate that 
any verb that has a dispositional use must also have a corresponding 
episodic use are two sources of one and the same myth. But they 
are not its only sources. 

It is now necessary to discuss briefly a general objection that is 
sometimes made to the whole programme of talking about 
capacities, tendencies, liabilities and pronenesscs. Potentialities, it 
is truistically said, are nothing actual. The world does not contain, 
over and above what exists and happens, some other things which 
are mere would-be things and could-be happenings. To say of a 
sleeping man that he can read French, or of a piece of dry sugar 
that it is soluble in water, seems to be pretending at once to accord 
an attribute and to put that attribute into cold storage. But an 
attribute either does, or does not, characterise something. It cannot 
be merely on deposit account. Or, to put it in another way, a 
significant affirmative indicative sentence must be either true or 
false. If it is true, it asserts that something has, or some things have, 
a certain character; if it is false, then its subject lacks that character. 
But there is no halfway house between a statement's being true 
and its being false, so there is no way in which 7 the subject described 
by a statement can shirk the disjunction by being merely able or 
likely to have or lack the character. A clock can strike the hour 
that it is, or strike an hour that it is not; but it cannot strike an hour 
that might be the correct one but is neither the correct nor an 
incorrect one. 

This is a valid objection to one kind of account of such statements 
as that the sugar is soluble, or the sleeper can read French, namely 
an account which construes sftch statements as asserting extra 
matters of fact. This was indeed the mistake of the old Faculty 
theories which construed dispositional words as denoting occult 


agencies or causes, i.e. things existing, or processes taking place, in a 
sort oflimbo world. But the truth that sentences containing words 
like 'might', 'could' and 'would ... if ' do not report limbo facts 
does not entail that such sentences have not got proper jobs of 
their own to perform. The job of reporting matters of fact is 
only one of a wide range of sentence-jobs. 

It needs no argument to show that interrogative, imperative and 
optative sentences are used for other ends than that of notifying 
their recipients of the existence or occurrence of things. It does, 
unfortunately, need some argument to show that there are lots of 
significant (affirmative and negative) indicative sentences which 
have functions other than that of reporting facts. There still 
survives the preposterous assumption that every true or false 
statement either asserts or denies that a mentioned object or set of 
objects possesses a specified attribute. In fact, some statements do 
this and most do not. Books of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, 
jurisprudence, philosophy, formal logic and economic theory 
contain few, if any, factual statements. That is why we call such 
subjects 'abstract'. Books on physics, meteorology, bacteriology 
and comparative philology contain very few such statements, 
though they may tell us where they are to be found. Technical 
manuals, works of criticism, sermons, political speeches and even 
railway-guides may be more or less instructive, and instructive in a 
variety of ways, but they teach us few singular, categorical, 
attributive or relational truths. 

Leaving on one side most of the sorts of sentences which have 
other than fact-reporting jobs, let us come straight to laws. For 
though assertions that mentioned individuals have capacities, 
liabilities, tendencies and the rest are not themselves statements of 
laws, they have features which can best be brought out after some 
peculiarities of law sentences have been discussed. 

Laws are often stated in grammatically uncomplex indicative 
sentences, but they can also be stated in, among other constructions, 
hypothetical sentences of such patterns as 'Whatever is so and so, is 
such and such' or 'If a body is left unsupported, it falls at such and 
such a rate of acceleration'. We do not call a hypothetical sentence a 
'law', unless it is a 'variable' or 'opAi' hypothetical statement, i.e. one 
of which the protasis can embody at least one expression like 'any' or 
'whenever'. It is in virtue of this feature that a law applies to 


instances, though its statement does not mention them. If I know that 
any pendulum that is longer by any amount than any other 
pendulum will swing slower than the shorter pendulum by an 
amount proportional to its excess length, then on finding a particular 
pendulum three inches longer than another particular pendulum, I 
can infer how much slower it will swing. Knowing the law does not 
involve already having found these two pendulums; the statement 
of the law does not embody a report of their existence. On the 
other hand, knowing or even understanding the law does involve 
knowing that there could be particular matters of fact satisfying 
the protasis and therefore also satisfying the apodosis of the law. 
We have to learn to use statements of particular matters of fact, 
before we can learn to use the law-statements which do or might 
apply to them. Law-statements belong to a different and more 
sophisticated level of discourse from that, or those, to which belong 
the statements of the facts that satisfy them. Algebraical statements 
are in a similar way on a different level of discourse from the 
arithmetical statements which satisfy them. 

Law-statements are true or false but they do not state truths or 
falsehoods of the same type as those asserted by the statements of 
fact to which they apply or are supposed to apply. They have 
different jobs. The crucial difference can be brought out in this way. 
At least part of the point of trying to establish laws is to find out 
how to infer from particular matters of fact to other particular 
matters of fact, how to explain particular matters of fact by reference 
to other matters of fact, and how to bring about or prevent particular 
states of affairs. A law is used as, so to speak, an inference-ticket (a 
season ticket) which licenses its possessors to move from asserting 
factual statements to asserting other factual statements. It also licenses 
them to provide explanations of given facts and to bring about 
desired states of affairs by manipulating what is found existing or 
happening. Indeed we should not admit that a student has learned a 
law, if all he were prepared to do were to recite it. Just as a student, 
to qualify as knowing rules of grammar, multiplication, chess or 
etiquette, must be able and ready to apply these rules in concrete 
operations, so, to qualify as knowing a law, he must be able and 
ready to apply it in making* concrete inferences from and to 
particular matters of fact, in explaining them and, perhaps also, in 
bringing them about, or preventing them. Teaching a law is, at 


least inter alia, teaching how to do new things, theoretical and 
practical, with particular matters of fact. 

It is sometimes urged that if we discover a law, which 
enables us to infer from diseases of certain sorts to the 
existence of bacteria of certain sorts, then we have discovered 
a new existence, namely a causal connection between such 
bacteria and such diseases; and that consequently we now know, 
what we did not know before, that there exist not only diseased 
persons and bacteria, but also an invisible and intangible bond 
between them. As trains cannot travel, unless there exist rails for 
them to travel on, so, it is alleged, bacteriologists cannot move 
from the clinical observation of patients to the prediction of 
microscopic observations of bacteria, unless there exists, though it 
can never be observed, an actual tie between the objects of these 

Now there is no objection to employing the familiar idiom 
'causal connection'. Bacteriologists do discover causal connections 
between bacteria and diseases, since this is only another way of saying 
that they do establish laws and so provide themselves with inference- 
tickets which enable them to infer from diseases to bacteria, explain 
diseases by assertions about bacteria, prevent and cure diseases by 
eliminating bacteria, and so forth. But to speak as if the discovery 
of a law were the finding of a third, unobservable existence is 
simply to fall back into the old habit of construing open hypo- 
thetical statements as singular categorical statements. It is like saying 
that a rule of grammar is a sort of extra but unspoken noun or 
verb, or that a rule of chess is a sort of extra but invisible chessman. 
It is to fall back into the old habit of assuming that all sorts of 
sentences do the same sort of job, the job, namely, of ascribing a 
predicate to a mentioned object. 

The favourite metaphor 'the rails of inference' is misleading in 
just this way. Railway lines exist in just the same sense that trains 
exist, and we discover that rails exist in just the way that we discover 
that trains exist. The assertion that trains run from one place to 
another does imply that a set of observable rails exists between the 
two places. So to speak of the 'rails of inference' suggests that 
inferring from diseases to bacteriais really not inferring at all, but 
describing a third entity; not arguing 'because so and so, therefore 
such and such', but reporting 'there exists an unobserved bond 


between this observed so and so and that observed such and such'. 
But if we then ask 'What is this third, unobserved entity postulated 
for?' the only answer given is 'to warrant us in arguing from diseases 
to bacteria'. The legitimacy of the inference is assumed all the time. 
What is gratuitously desiderated is a story that shall seem to reduce 
'therefore' sentences and 'if any . . .' sentences to sentences of the 
pattern 'Here is a . . .'; i.e. of obliterating the functional differences 
between arguments and narratives. But much as railway tickets 
cannot be 'reduced' to queer counterparts of the railway journeys 
that they make possible; and much as railway journeys cannot be 
'reduced' to queer counterparts of the railway stations at which 
they start and finish, so law-statements cannot be 'reduced' to 
counterparts of the inferences and explanations that they license, 
and inferences and explanations cannot be 'reduced' to counterparts 
of the factual statements that constitute their termini. The 
sentence-job of stating facts is different from the job of stating an 
argument from factual statement to factual statement, and both 
are different from the job of giving warrants for such arguments. 
We have to learn to use sentences for the first job before 
we can learn to use them for the second, and we have to learn to 
use them for the first and the second jobs before we can learn to 
use them for the third. There are, of course, plenty of other 
sentence-jobs, which it is not our present business to consider. For 
example, the sentences which occupy these pages have not got any 
of the jobs which they have been describing. 

We can now come back to consider dispositional statements, 
namely statements to the effect that a mentioned tiling, beast or 
person, has a certain capacity, tendency or propensity, or is subject 
to a certain liability. It is clear that such statements are not laws, 
for they mention particular things or persons. On the other hand 
they resemble laws in being partly 'variable' or 'open'. To say that 
this lump of sugar is soluble is to say that it would dissolve, if 
submerged anywhere, at any time and in any parcel of water. To 
say that this sleeper knows French, is to say that if, for example, 
he is ever addressed in French, or shown any French newspaper, he 
responds pertinently in French, acts appropriately or translates it 
correctly into his own tongue. fThis is, of course, too precise. We 
should not withdraw our statement that he knows French on 
finding that he did not respond pertinently when asleep, absent- 


minded, drunk or in a panic; or on finding that he did not correctly 
translate highly technical treatises. We expect no more than that he 
will ordinarily cope pretty well with the majority of ordinary 
French-using and French-following tasks. 'Knows French' is a 
vague expression and, for most purposes, none the less useful for 
being vague. 

The suggestion has been made that dispositional statements about 
mentioned individuals, while not themselves laws, are deductions 
from laws, so that we have to learn some perhaps crude and vague 
laws before we can make such dispositional statements. But in 
general the learning process goes the other way. We learn to make 
a number of dispositional statements about individuals before we 
learn laws stating general correlations between such statements. 
We find that some individuals are both oviparous and feathered, 
before we learn that any individual that is feathered is oviparous. 

Dispositional statements about particular things and persons are 
also like law statements in the fact that we use them in a partly 
similar way. They apply to, or they are satisfied by, the actions, 
reactions and states of the object; they are inference-tickets, 
which license us to predict, retrodict, explain and modify these 
actions, reactions and states. 

Naturally, the addicts of the superstition that all true indicative 
sentences either describe existents or report occurrences will demand 
that sentences such as 'this wire conducts electricity*, or 'John Doe 
knows French', shall be construed as conveying factual information 
of the same type as that conveyed by 'this wire is conducting 
electricity' and ']ohn Doe is speaking French'. How could the 
statements be true unless there were something now going on, 
even though going on, unfortunately, behind the scenes ? Yet they 
have to agree that we do often know that a wire conducts electricity 
and that individuals know French, without having first discovered 
any undiscoverable goings on. They have to concede, too, that 
the theoretical utility of discovering these hidden goings on would 
consist only in its entitling us to do just that predicting, explaining 
and modifying which we already do and often know that we are 
entitled to do. They would have to admit, finally, that these 
postulated processes are themselves, at the best, things the 
existence of which they themselves infer from the fact that we can 
predict, explain and modify the observable actions and reactions 


of individuals. But if they demand actual Vails* where ordinary 
inferences are made, they will have to provide some further actual 
'rails' to justify their own peculiar inference from the legitimacy of 
ordinary inferences to the 'rails' which they postulate to carry them. 
The postulation of such an endless hierarchy of 'rails' could hardly 
be attractive even to those who are attracted by its first step. 

Dispositional statements are neither reports of observed or 
observable states of affairs, nor yet reports of unobserved or 
unobservable states of affairs. They narrate no incidents. But their 
jobs are intimately connected with narratives of incidents, for, if 
they are true, they are satisfied by narrated incidents. 'John Doe has 
just been telephoning in French' satisfies what is asserted by 'John 
Doe knows French', and a person who has found out that John 
Doe knows French perfectly needs no further ticket to enable him 
to argue from his having read a telegram in French to his having 
made sense of it. Knowing that John Doe knows French is being 
in possession of that ticket, and expecting him to understand this 
telegram is travelling with it. 

It should be noticed that there is no incompatibility in saying 
that dispositional statements narrate no incidents and allowing the 
patent fact that dispositional statements can have tenses. 'He was a 
cigarette-smoker for a year' and 'the rubber began to lose its 
elasticity last summer' arc perfectly legitimate dispositional state- 
ments; and if it were never true that an individual might be going to 
know something, there could exist no teaching profession. There 
can be short-term, long-term or termless inference-tickets. A rule of 
cricket might be in force only for an experimental period, and 
even the climate of a continent might change from epoch to epoch. 

(3) Mental Capacities and Tendencies. 

There is at our disposal an indefinitely wide range of dispositional 
terms for talking about things, living creatures and human beings. 
Some of these can be applied indifferently to all sorts of tilings; for 
example, some pieces of metal, sonic fishes and some human beings 
weigh 140 lb., are elastic and combustible, and all of them, if left 
unsupported, fall at the same rate of acceleration. Other dispositional 
terms can be applied only to certain kinds of things; 'hibernates', 
for example, can be applied with truth or falsity only to living 
creatures, and 'Tory' can be applied with truth or falsity only to 


non-idiotic, non-infantile, non-barbarous human beings. Our 
concern is with a restricted class of dispositional terms, namely 
those appropriate only to the characterisation of human beings. 
Indeed, the class we are concerned with is narrower than that, since 
we are concerned only with those which are appropriate to the 
characterisation of such stretches of human behaviour as exhibit 
qualities of intellect and character. We are not, for example, 
concerned with any mere reflexes which may happen to be peculiar 
to men, or with any pieces of physiological equipment which 
happen to be peculiar to human anatomy. 

Of course, the edges of this restriction are blurred. Dogs as well 
as infants are drilled to respond to words of command, to pointing 
and to the ringing of dinner-bells; apes learn to use and even construct 
instruments; kittens are playful and parrots are imitative. If we like 
to say that the behaviour of animals is instinctive while part of the 
behaviour of human beings is rational, though we are drawing 
attention to an important difference or family of differences, it 
is a difference the edges of which are, in their turn, blurred. Exactly 
when does the instinctive imitativeness of the infant develop into 
rational histrionics? By which birthday has the child ceased ever 
to respond to the dinner-bell like a dog and begun always to respond 
to it like an angel ? Exactly where is the boundary line between the 
suburb and the country? 

Since this book as a whole is a discussion of the logical behaviour 
of some of the cardinal terms, dispositional and occurrent, in which 
we talk about minds, all that is necessary in this section is to indicate 
some general differences between the uses of some of our selected 
dispositional terms. No attempt is made to discuss all these terms, 
or even all of the types of these terms. 

Many dispositional statements may be, though they need not 
be, and ordinarily are not, expressed with the help of the words 
'can*, 'could' and 'able'. 'He is a swimmer', when it does not 
signify that he is an expert, means merely that he can swim. But 
the words 'can' and 'able' are used in lots of different ways, as can 
be illustrated by the following examples. 'Stones can float (for 
pumice-stone floats)'; 'that fish can swim (for it is not disabled, 
although it is now inert in the mud)'; 'John Doe can swim (for he 
has learned and not forgotten)'; 'Richard Roe can swim (if he is 
willing to learn)'; 'you can swim (when you try hard)'; 'she can 


swim (for the doctor has withdrawn his veto)* and so on. The 
first example states that there is no license to infer that because this 
is a stone, it will not float; the second denies the existence of a 
physical impediment; the last asserts the cessation of a disciplinary 
impediment. The third, fourth and fifth statements are informative 
about personal qualities, and they give different sorts of information. 

To bring out the different forces of some of these different uses 
of 'can' and 'able', it is convenient to make a brief disquisition on the 
logic of what are sometimes called the 'modal words', such as 'can', 
'must', 'may', 'is necessarily', 'is not necessarily' and 'is not 
necessarily not'. A statement to the effect that something must be, 
or is necessarily, the case functions as what I have called an 'inference- 
ticket'; it licenses the inference to the thing's being the case from 
something else which may or may not be specified in the statement. 
When the statement is to the effect that something is necessarily 
not, or cannot be, the case, it functions as a license to infer to its not 
being the case. Now sometimes it is required to refuse such a license 
to infer that something is not the case, and we commonly word 
this refusal by saying that it can be the case, or that it is possibly 
the case. To say that something can be the case does not entail that 
it is the case, or that it is not the case, or, of course, that it is in 
suspense between being and not being the case, but only that there 
is no license to infer from something else, specified or unspecified, 
to its not being the case. 

This general account also covers most 'if-then' sentences. An 
'if-then' sentence can nearly always be paraphrased by a sentence 
containing a modal expression, and vice versa. Modal and hypo- 
thetical sentences have the same force. Take any ordinary 
'if-then' sentence, such as 'if I walk under that ladder, I shall meet 
trouble during the day' and consider how we should colloquially 
express its contradictory. It will not do to attach a 'not' to the 
protasis verb, to the apodosis verb, or to both at once, for the 
results of all three operations would be equally superstitious state- 
ments. It would do, but it would not be convenient or colloquial 
to say 'No, it is not the case that if I walk under a ladder I shall have 
trouble'. We should ordinarily reject the superstition by saying 
'No, I might walk under the ladder and not have trouble' or 'I 
could walk under it without having trouble' or, to generalise the 
rejection, 'trouble does not necessarily come to people who walk 


under ladders'. Conversely the original superstitious statement 
could have been worded 'I could not walk under a ladder without 
experiencing trouble during the day'. There is only a stylistic 
difference between the 'if-then' idiom and the modal idioms. 

It must, however, not be forgotten that there are other uses of 
'if', 'must' and 'can' where this equivalence does not hold. 'If 
sometimes means 'even though'. It is also often used in giving 
conditional undertakings, threats and wagers. 'Can' and 'must' arc 
sometimes used as vehicles of non-theoretical permissions, orders 
and vetoes. True, there are similarities between giving or refusing 
licenses to infer and giving or refusing licenses to do other things, 
but there are big differences as well. We do not, for instance, 
naturally describe as true or false the doctor's ruling 'the patient 
must stay in bed, can dictate letters, but must not smoke'; whereas 
it is quite natural to describe as true or false such sentences as 'a 
syllogism can have two universal premisses', 'whales cannot live 
without surfacing from time to time', 'a freely falling body must 
be accelerating' and 'people who walk under ladders need not come 
to disaster during the day'. The ethical uses of 'must', 'may' and 
'may not' have affinities with both. We are ready to discuss the 
truth of ethical statements embodying such words, but the point of 
making such statements is to regulate parts of people's conduct, 
other than their inferences. In having both these features they 
resemble the treatment recommendations given to doctors by their 
medical text-books, rather than the regimen-instructions given by 
doctors to their patients. Ethical statements, as distinct from 
particular ad hominetn behests and reproaches, should be regarded 
as warrants addressed to any potential givers of behests and 
reproaches, and not to the actual addressees of such behests and 
reproaches, i.e. not as personal action-tickets but as impersonal 
injunction-tickets; not imperatives but 'laws' that only such things 
as imperatives and punishments can satisfy. Like statute laws they 
are to be construed not as orders, but as licences to give and enforce 

We may now return from this general discussion of the sorts 
of jobs performed by modal sentences to consider certain specific 
differences between a few selected 'can' sentences, used for 
describing personal qualities. 

To say that John Doe can swim differs from saying of a puppy 


that it can swim. For to say that the puppy can swim is compatible 
with saying that it has never been taught to swim, or had practice 
in swimming, whereas to say that a person can swim implies that 
he has learned to swim and has not forgotten. The capacity to acquire 
capacities by being taught is not indeed a human peculiarity. The 
puppy can be taught or drilled to beg, much as infants are taught to 
walk and use spoons. But some kinds of learning, including the 
way in which most people learn to swim, involve the understanding 
and application either of spoken instructions or at least of staged 
demonstrations; and a creature that can learn things in these ways 
is unhesitatingly conceded to have a mind, where the teachability 
of the dog and infant leaves us hesitant whether or not to say that 
they yet qualify for this certificate. 

To say that Richard Roe can swim (for he can learn to swim) 
is to say that he is competent to follow and apply such instructions 
and demonstrations, though he may not yet have begun to do so. 
It would be wrong to predict about him, what it would be right to 
predict about an idiot, that since he now flounders helplessly in the 
water, he will still flounder helplessly after he has been given 

To say that you can swim (if you try) is to use an interesting 
intermediate sort of 'can'. Whereas John Doe does not now 
have to try to swim, and Richard Roe cannot yet swim, however 
hard he tries, you know what to do but only do it, when you 
apply your whole mind to the task. You have understood the 
instructions and demonstrations, but still have to give yourself 
practice in the application of them. This learning to apply instruc- 
tions by deliberate and perhaps difficult and alarming practice is 
something else which we regard as peculiar to creatures with minds. 
It exhibits qualities of character, though qualities of a different 
order from those exhibited by the puppy that shows tenacity and 
courage even in its play, since the novice is making himself do 
something difficult and alarming with the intention to develop his 
capacities. To say that he can swim if he tries is, therefore, to say 
both that he can understand instructions and also that he can 
intentionally drill himself in applying them. 

It is not difficult to think of n&ny other uses of 'can* and 'abb'. 
In 'John Doe has been able to swim since he was a boy, but now 
he can invent new strokes' we have one such use. 'Can invent' does 


not mean 'has learned and not forgotten how to invent'. Nor is it 
at all like the 'can' in 'can sneeze'. Again the 'can' in 'can defeat all 
but champion swimmers' does not have the same force as either 
that in 'can swim' or that in 'can invent'. It is a 'can' which 
applies to race-horses. 

There is one further feature of 'can' which is of special pertinence 
to our central theme. We often say of a person, or of a performing 
animal, that he can do something, in the sense that he can do it 
correctly or well. To say that a child can spell a word is to say that 
he can give, not merely some collection or other of letters, but the 
right collection in the right order. To say that he can tie a reef-knot 
is to say not merely that when he plays with bits of string, sometimes 
reef-knots and sometimes granny-knots are produced, but that 
reef-knots are produced whenever, or nearly whenever, reef-knots 
are required, or at least that they are nearly always produced when 
required and when the child is trying. When we use, as we often 
do use, the phrase 'can tell' as a paraphrase of 'know', we mean by 
'tell', 'tell correctly'. We do not say that a child can tell the time, 
when all that he does is deliver random time-of-day statements, 
but only when he regularly reports the time of day in conformity 
with the position of the hands of the clock, or with the position of 
the sun, whatever these positions may be. 

Many of the performance-verbs with which we describe people 
and, sometimes with qualms, animals, signify the occurrence not 
just of actions but of suitable or correct actions. They signify 
achievements. Verbs like 'spell', 'catch', 'solve', 'find', 'win', 'cure', 
'score', 'deceive', 'persuade', 'arrive' and countless others signify 
not merely that some performance has been gone through, but 
also that something has been brought off by the agent going 
through it. They are verbs of success. Now successes are sometimes 
due to luck; a cricketer may score a boundary by making a careless 
stroke. But when we say of a person that he can bring off things of 
a certain sort, such as solve anagrams or cure sciatica, we mean that 
he can be relied on to succeed reasonably often even without the 
aid of luck. He knows how to bring it off in normal situations. 
We also use corresponding verbs of failure, like 'miss', 'misspell' 
'drop', 'lose', 'foozle' and 'ntiscalculate'. It is an important 
fact that if a person can spell or calculate, it must also be 
possible for him to misspell and miscalculate; but the sense 


of 'can' in 'can spell* and 'can calculate' is quite different from its 
sense in 'can misspell' and 'can miscalculate'. The one is a com- 
petence, the other is not another competence but a liability. For 
certain purposes it is also necessary to notice the further difference 
between both these senses of 'can' and the sense in which it is true 
to say that a person cannot solve an anagram incorrectly, win a race 
unsuccessfully, find a treasure unavailingly, or prove a theorem 
invalidly. For this 'cannot' is a logical 'cannot'. It says nothing about 
people's competences or limitations, but only that, for instance, 
'solve incorrectly' is a self-contradictory expression. We shall see 
later that the epistemologist's hankering for some incorrigible sort 
of observation derives partly from his failure to notice that in one of 
its senses 'observe' is a verb of success, so that in this sense, 'mistaken 
observation' is as self-contradictory an expression as 'invalid proof 
or 'unsuccessful cure'. But just as 'invalid argument' and 'unsuc- 
cessful treatment' are logically permissible expressions, so 'inefficient' 
or 'unavailing observation' is a permissible expression, when 
'observe' is used not as a 'find' verb but as a 'hunt' verb. 

Enough has been said to show that there is a wide variety of 
types of 'can' words, and that within this class there is a wide 
variety of types of capacity-expressions and liability-expressions. 
Only some of these capacity-expressions and liability-expressions 
are peculiar to the description of human beings, but even of these 
there arc various types. 

Tendencies are different from capacities and liabilities. 'Would 
if . , .' differs from 'could'; and 'regularly does . . . when . . / 
differs from 'can'. Roughly, to say 'can' is to say that it is not a 
certainty that something will not be the case, while, to say 'tends', 
'keeps on' or 'is prone', is to say that it is a good bet that it will 
be, or was, the case. So 'tends to' implies 'can', but is not implied by 
it. 'Fido tends to howl when the moon shines' says more than 'it 
is not true that if the moon shines, Fido is silent'. It licenses the 
hearer not only not to rely on his silence, but positively to expect 

But there are lots of types of tendency. Fido's tendency to get 
mange in the summer (unless specially dieted) is not the same sort 
of thing as his tendency to bark when the moon shines (unless his 
master is gruff with him). A person's blinking at fairly regular 


intervals is a different sort of tendency from his way of flickering 
his eyelids when embarrassed. We might call the latter, what we 
should not call the former, a 'mannerism*. 

We distinguish between some behaviour tendencies and some 
others by calling some of them 'pure habits', others of them 'tastes', 
'interests', 'bents' and 'hobbies' and yet others of them jobs' and 
'occupations'. It might be a pure habit to draw on the right sock 
before the left sock, a hobby to go fishing when work and weather 
permit, and a job to drive lorries. It is, of course, easy to think of 
borderline cases of regular behaviour which we might hesitate to 
classify; some people's jobs are their hobbies and some people's 
jobs and hobbies are nearly pure habits. But we are fairly clear 
about the distinctions between the concepts themselves. An action 
done from pure habit is one that is not done on purpose and is 
one that the agent need not be able to report having done even 
immediately after having done it; his mind may have been on 
something else. Actions performed as parts of a person's job may 
be done by pure habit; still, he does not perform them when not 
on the job. The soldier does not march, when home on leave, but 
only when he knows that he has got to march, or ought to march. 
He resumes and drops the habit when he puts on and takes off his 

Exercises of hobbies, interests and tastes are performed, as we 
say, 'for pleasure'. But this phrase can be misleading, since it suggests 
that these exercises are performed as a sort of investment from which 
a dividend is anticipated. The truth is the reverse, namely that we do 
these things because we like doing them, or want to do them, and 
not because we like or want something accessory to them. We 
invest our capital reluctantly in the hope of getting dividends which 
will make the outlay worth while, and if we were offered the chance 
of getting the dividends without investing the capital, we should 
gladly abstain from making the outlay. But the angler would not 
accept or understand an offer of the pleasures without the activities 
of angling. It is angling that he enjoys, not something that angling 

To say that someone is now enjoying or disliking something 
entails that he is paying heed to it* There would be a contradiction 
in saying that the music pleased him though he was paying no 
attention to what he heard. There would, of course, be no contra- 


diction in saying that he was listening to the music but neither 
enjoying nor disliking it. Accordingly, to say that someone is 
fond of or keen on angling entails not merely that he tends to wield 
his rod by the river when he is not forced or obliged not to do so, 
but that he tends to do so with liis mind on it, that he tends to 
be wrapped up in daydreams and memories of angling, and to be 
absorbed in conversations and books on the subject. But this is 
not the whole story. A conscientious reporter tends to listen intently 
to the words of public speakers, even though he would not do this, 
if he were not obliged to do it. He does not do it when off duty. In 
these hours he is, perhaps, wont to devote himself to angling. He 
does not have to try to concentrate on fishing as he has to try to 
concentrate on speeches. He concentrates without trying. This is a 
large part of what 'keen on' means. 

Besides pure habits, jobs and interests there are many other 
types of higher level tendencies. Some behaviour regularities are 
adherences to resolutions or ^policies imposed by the agent on 
himself; some are adherences to codes or religions inculcated into 
him by others. Addictions, ambitions, missions, loyalties, devotions 
and chronic negligences are all behaviour tendencies, but they are 
tendencies of very different kinds. 

Two illustrations may serve to bring out some of the differences 
between capacities and tendencies, or between competences and 
pronenesses. (a) Both skills and inclinations can be simulated, but 
we use abusive names like 'charlatan' and 'quack' for the frauds 
who pretend to be able to bring things off, while we use the abusive 
word 'hypocrite' for the frauds who affect motives and habits. 
(b) Epistemologists are apt to perplex themselves and their 
readers over the distinction between knowledge and belief. Some 
of them suggest that these differ only in degree of something or 
other, and some that they differ in the presence of some intro- 
spectible ingredient in knowing which is absent from believing, or 
vice versa. Part of this embarrassment is due to their supposing that 
'know' and 'believe' signify occurrences, but even when it is seen 
that both are dispositional verbs, it has still to be seen that they are 
dispositional verbs of quite disparate types. 'Know' is a capacity verb, 
and a capacity verb of that speftal sort that is used for signifying 
that the person described can bring things off, or get things right. 
'Believe', on the other hand, is a tendency verb and one which 


does not connote that anything is brought off or got right. 'Belief ' 
can be qualified by such adjectives as 'obstinate', 'wavering', 
'unswerving', 'unconquerable', 'stupid', 'fanatical', 'whole-hearted', 
'intermittent', 'passionate' and 'childlike', adjectives some or all of 
which are also appropriate to such nouns as 'trust', 'loyalty', 'bent', 
'aversion', 'hope', 'habit', 'zeal' and 'addiction'. Beliefs, like habits, 
can be inveterate, slipped into and given up; like partisanships, 
devotions and hopes they can be blind and obsessing; like aversions 
and phobias they can be unacknowledged; like fashions and tastes 
they can be contagious; like loyalties and animosities they can be 
induced by tricks. A person can be urged or entreated not to believe 
things, and he may try, with or without success, to cease to do so. 
Sometimes a person says truly 'I cannot help believing so and so'. 
But none of these dictions, or their negatives, are applicable to 
knowing, since to know is to be equipped to get something right 
and not to tend to act or react in certain manners. 

Roughly, 'believe' is of the same family as motive words, 
where 'know' is of the same family as skill words; so we ask how a 
person knows this, but only why a person believes that, as we ask 
how a person ties a clove-hitch, but why he wants to tie a clove- 
hitch or why he always ties granny-knots. Skills have methods, 
where habits and inclinations have sources. Similarly, we ask what 
makes people believe or dread tilings but not what makes them 
know or achieve things. 

Of course, belief and knowledge (when it is knowledge that) 
operate, to put it crudely, in the same field. The sorts of things that 
can be described as known or unknown can also be described as 
believed or disbelieved, somewhat as the sorts of things that can be 
manufactured are also the sorts of things that can be exported. A 
man who believes that the ice is dangerously thin gives warnings, 
skates warily and replies to pertinent questions in the same ways 
as the man who knows that it is dangerously thin; and if asked 
whether he knows it for a fact, he may unhesitatingly claim to 
do so, until embarrassed by the question how he found it out. 

Belief might be said to be like knowledge and unlike trust in 
persons, zeal for causes, or addiction to smoking, in that it is 
'prepositional' ; but this, though* not far wrong, is too narrow. 
Certainly to believe that the ice is dangerously thin is to be 
unhesitant in telling oneself and others that it is thin, in acquiescing 


in other people's assertions to that effect, in objecting to statements 
to the contrary, in drawing consequences from the original proposi- 
tion, and so forth. But it is also to be prone to skate warily, to 
shudder, to dwell in imagination on possible disasters and to warn 
other skaters. It is a propensity not only to make certain theoretical 
moves but also to make certain executive and imaginative moves, 
as well as to have certain feelings. But these things hang together 
on a common prepositional hook. The phrase 'thin ice' would 
occur in the descriptions alike of the shudders, the warnings, the 
wary skating, the declarations, the inferences, the acquiescences and 
the objections. 

A person who knows that the ice is thin, and also cares whether 
it is thin or thick, will, of course, be apt to act and react in these 
ways too. But to say that he keeps to the edge, because he knows 
that the ice is thin, is to employ quite a different sense of 'because', 
or to give quite a different sort of 'explanation', from that conveyed 
by saying that he keeps to the edge because he believes that the 
ice is thin. 

(4) Mental Occwrences. 

There are hosts of ways in which we describe people as now 
engaged in this, as frequently undergoing that, as having spent 
several minutes in an activity, or as being quick or slow to achieve a 
result. An important sub-class of such occurrences are those which 
exliibit qualities of character and intellect. It must be noticed from 
the start that it is one thing to say that certain human actions and 
reactions exhibit qualities of character and intellect; it is, by an 
unfortunate linguistic fashion, quite another tiling to say that there 
occur mental acts or mental processes. The latter expression 
traditionally belongs to the two-worlds story, the story that some 
tilings exist or occur 'in the physical world', while other things 
exist and occur not in that world but in another, metaphorical 
place. Rejection of this story is perfectly compatible with retaining 
the familiar distinction between, say, babbling and talking sense, 
or between twitching and signalling; nor does acceptance of the 
two-worlds story in any degree clarify or consolidate this distinction. 

I begin by considering a battery of concepts all of which may be 
brought under the useful because vague heading of 'minding'. Or 
they could all alike be described as 'heed concepts'. I refer to the 


concepts of noticing, taking care, attending, applying one's mind, 
concentrating, putting one's heart into something, thinking what 
one is doing, alertness, interest, intentness, studying and trying. 
* Absence of mind' is a phrase sometimes used to signify a condition 
in which people act or react without heeding what they are doing, 
or without noticing what is going on. We also have in English a 
more special sense of 'minding', hi which to say that a person minds 
what he eats is to say not only that he notices what he eats, but 
further that he cares what he eats. Enjoying and disliking entail, 
but are not entailed by, heeding. 'Enjoy' and 'dislike' belong to the 
large class of verbs which already connote heeding. We cannot, 
without absurdity, describe someone as absent-mindedly pondering, 
searching, testing, debating, planning, listening or relishing. A 
man may mutter or fidget absent-mindedly, but if he is calculating, 
or scrutinising, it is redundant to say that he is paying some heed 
to what he is doing. 

Minding, in all its sorts, can vary in degree. A driver can drive 
a car with great care, reasonable care or slight care, and a student 
can concentrate hard or not very hard. A person cannot always 
tell whether he has been applying his whole mind, or only a part 
of it, to a task, in which he has been engaged. The child who tries 
to commit a poem to memory may think that he has been 
attending hard, for he glued his eyes to the page, muttered the 
words, frowned and stopped up his ears. But if, without there 
having been any distractions or interruptions, he still cannot recite 
the poem, say what it was about, or find anything amiss with the 
erroneous versions recited by his companions, his claim will be 
rejected by the teacher and even, perhaps, withdrawn by himself. 

Some traditional accounts given of consciousness have been, at 
least in part, attempts to clarify the concepts of heed, usually by 
claiming to isolate some unique ingredient common to them all. 
This common ingredient has commonly been described in the idiom 
of contemplation or inspection, as if part of the difference between 
having a tickle and noticing it, or between reading a paragraph and 
studying it, consisted in the fact that the having of the tickle and the 
reading of the paragraph take place, metaphorically, in a good light 
and under the eyes of the person concerned. But so far from heeding 
being a sort of inspecting or monitoring, inspecting and monitoring 
are themselves special exercises of heed; since whether a person is 


described literally or metaphorically as a spectator, it is always signi- 
ficant to ask whether he has been a careful or careless spectator, a 
vigilant or a drowsy one. That someone has been carefully warching 
a bird on the lawn does not entail that he has also been metaphoric- 
ally 'watching' his watching; and that he has been applying his mind 
to the cartoon that he has been drawing does not entail that he has 
been either watching his fingers at their work or watching anything 
else at work. Doing something with heed does not consist in 
coupling an executive performance with a piece of theorising, 
investigating, scrutinising or 'cognising'; or else doing anything with 
heed would involve doing an infinite number of things with heed. 

The motives for misdescribing heed in the contemplative idiom 
derive partly from the general intellcctualist tradition, according 
to which theorising is the essential function of minds, and meta- 
phorical contemplation is the essence of theorising. But there is a 
further and more reputable motive. It is quite true that if a 
person has been doing or undergoing something and has been 
paying heed to what he was doing or undergoing, he can then tell 
what he has been doing or undergoing (provided that he has 
learned the arts of telling) ; and he can tell it without rummaging 
for evidence, without drawing any inferences and without even 
momentarily wondering what he should say. It is already on the 
tip of his tongue and he tells it without hesitation or research as 
he tells anything that is familiar or obvious. And as our standard 
models of obviousness are taken from the field of familiar things 
seen from advantageous points of view in good lights, we naturally 
like to describe all abilities to tell things without work or hesitation 
as issuing from something like seeing. Hence we like to speak of 
'seeing* implications and 'seeing' jokes. But though references to 
seeing familiar things in favourable circumstances may illustrate, 
they cannot elucidate the notions of familiarity and obviousness. 

Later on we shall have to consider how the readiness to tell 
what one's actions and reactions have been is involved in having 
paid some heed to them. Here it is necessary to point out that 
readiness to answer questions about one's actions and reactions does 
not exhaust the heed we pay to them. Driving a car with care 
reduces the risk of accidents as v^ell as enabling the driver to satisfy 
interrogations about his operations. Applying our minds to things 
does not qualify us only to give veracious reports about them, and 


absence of mind is betrayed by other things than merely being 
nonplussed in the witness-box. The concept of heed is not, save per 
accidens, a cognitive concept. Investigations are not the only occupa- 
tions in which we apply our minds. 

We may now turn to a new feature in the logical behaviour 
of heed concepts. When a person hums as he walks, he is doing 
two things at once, either of which he might interrupt without 
interrupting the other. But when we speak of a person minding 
what he is saying, or what he is whistling, we are not saying 
that he is doing two things at once. He could not stop his reading, 
while continuing his attention to it, or hand over the controls of 
his car, while continuing to exercise care; though he could, of course, 
continue to read but cease to attend, or continue to drive but cease 
to take care. Since the use of such pairs of active verbs as 'read' and 
'attend' or 'drive* and 'take care' may suggest that there must be two 
synchronous and perhaps coupled processes going on whenever 
both verbs are properly used, it may be helpful to remember that 
it is quite idiomatic to replace the heed verb by a heed adverb. We 
commonly speak of reading attentively, driving carefully and 
conning studiously, and this usage has the merit of suggesting that 
what is being described is one operation with a special character 
and not two operations executed in different 'places', with a 
peculiar cable between them. 

What then is this special character? The question is perplexing, 
since the ways in which heed adverbs qualify the active verbs to 
which they are attached seem quite unlike the ways in which other 
adverbs qualify their verbs. A horse may be described as running 
quickly or slowly, smoothly or jerkily, straight or crookedly, and 
simple observation or even cinematograph films enable us to decide 
in which manner the horse was running. But when a man is 
described as driving carefully, whistling with concentration or 
eating absent-mindedly, the special character of his activity seems 
to elude the observer, the camera and the dictaphone. Perhaps 
knitted brows, taciturnity and fixity of gaze may be evidence of 
intentness ; but these can be simulated, or they can be purely habitual. 
In any case, in describing him as applying his mind to his task, we 
do not mean that this is how he looks and sounds while engaged 
in it; we should not withdraw a statement to the effect that he had 
been concentrating merely on being told that his expressions and 


movements had been tranquil. But if this special character is 
unwitnessable, we seem forced to say either that it is some hidden 
concomitant of the operation to which it is ascribed, or that it is 
some merely dispositional property of the agent; either that whistling 
with concentration is a tandem occurrence, the members of which 
occur in different 'places', or that the description of the whistling as 
done with concentration mentions one overt occurrence and makes 
some open hypothetical statement about its author. To accept the 
former suggestion would be to relapse into the two-worlds legend. 
It would also involve us in the special difficulty that since minding 
would then be a different activity from the overt activity said to be 
minded, it would be impossible to explain why that minding could 
not go on by itself as humming can go on without walking. On the 
other hand, to accept the dispositional account would apparently 
involve us in saying that though a person may properly be described 
as whistling now, he cannot be properly described as concentrating 
or taking care now; and we know quite well that such descriptions 
are legitimate. But this point must be examined more fully. 

If we want to find out whether someone has been noticing what 
he has been reading, we are generally content to decide the question 
by cross-questioning him not long afterwards. If he cannot tell us 
anything about the gist or the wording of the chapter, if he finds no 
fault with other passages which contradict the original chapter, or 
if he expresses surprise on being informed of something already 
mentioned in it, then, unless he has suffered concussion in the 
interim, or is now excited or sleepy, we are satisfied that he did not 
notice what he read. To notice what one reads entails being prepared 
to satisfy some such subsequent tests. In a similar way, certain kinds 
of accidents or near-accidents would satisfy us that the driver had 
not been taking care. To take care entails being prepared for certain 
sorts of emergencies. 

But this cannot be the whole story. For one thing, there are 
plenty of other process verbs which carry analogous dispositional 
properties with them though they cannot be ranked with heed verbs. 
'He is now dying', 'coming to', 'weakening', 'he is now being 
hypnotised', 'anaesthetised', 'immunised' are all occurrence reports the 
truth of which requires some testable hypothetical statements about 
his future to be true. And, on the other side, not only is it allowable 
to describe someone as now tliinking what he is saying, as inter- 


mittently noticing the hardness of his chair, or as starting and ceasing 
to concentrate, but it is proper to order or request someone to 
apply his mind, as it is not proper to order him to be able or likely 
to do things. We know, too, that it can be more fatiguing to read 
attentively than to read inattentively. So while we are certainly 
saying something dispositional in applying such a heed concept 
to a person, we are certainly also saying something episodic. We 
are saying that he did what he did in a specific frame of mind, and 
while the specification of the frame of mind requires mention of 
ways in which he was able, ready or likely to act and react, his 
acting in that frame of mind was itself a dockable occurrence. 

To restate the problem, it is possible, if not very common, for two 
or more overt actions done in quite dissimilar frames of mind to be 
photographically and gramophonically as similar as you please. A 
person playing a piece of music on the piano may be doing this for 
his own pleasure, or to please an audience, or for practice, or for in- 
struction-purposes, or under duress, or as a parody of another pianist, 
or quite absent-mindedly and by sheer rote. So, since the differences 
between these performances cannot always be photographically or 
gramophonically recorded, we are tempted to say that they consist 
either in the concomitant occurrence of some internal actions and 
reactions, detectable only by the performer, or else in the satisfaction 
by the overt performances of different open hypothetical statements. 
In other words, the description of the player as playing 'Home 
Sweet Home' as a demonstration of how it should be played has an 
internal complexity, in respect of one element of which it differs 
from the description of him as playing 'Home Sweet Home* in 
parody of another player, though in respect of their witnessed 
element they are similar. Are these complex descriptions of outwardly 
similar occurrences to be construed as descriptions of conjunctions of 
similar overt with dissimilar covert occurrences, or are their 
differences to be construed in another way? Do they assert dual 
matters of fact, or singular matters of fact, with different inference- 
warrants appended? 

Neither option seems acceptable, though the second provides 
an indispensable part of the answer. Like most dichotomies, the 
logicians' dichotomy 'either categorical or hypothetical' needs to 
be taken with a pinch of salt. We have here to do with a class of 
statements the job of which is to straddle just this gulf. Save to 


those who are spellbound by dichotomies, there is nothing 
scandalous in the notion that a statement may be in some respects 
like statements of brute fact and in other respects like inference- 
licences; or that it may be at once narrative, explanatory and 
conditionally predictive, without being a conjunctive assemblage 
of detachable sub-statements. Every statement to the effect that 
something is so because something else is the case, requires, in order 
to be true, both that certain matters of fact obtain, and that there is a 
license to infer one from the other. Nor is such a statement one of 
which an objector might say that part of it was true, but the other 
part was false. 

The colloquial accusation 'You would miss the last train' not 
only reproaches the culprit for having missed the train, but also 
declares that he could have been expected to do so. The error that 
he has in fact committed is just one of the things that could have 
been predicted. It was just like him to do what he did. The accusation 
embodies a partially satisfied open hypothetical statement. It is not 
and could not be wholly satisfied, for it could also have been predicted 
that if he had gone to a telephone-booth (which perhaps he did 
not), he would not have had the right change, and if he had meant 
to post a letter (which perhaps he did not) he would have missed 
the last collection. I shall call statements like 'You would do the 
thing you did' 'semi-hypothetical' or 'mongrel categorical state- 
ments'. Most of the examples ordinarily adduced of categorical 
statements are mongrel categoricals. 

Correspondingly, to say that someone has done something, 
paying some heed to what he was doing, is not only to say that he 
was, e.g. ready for any of a variety of associated tasks and tests 
which might have cropped up but perhaps did not; it is also to say 
that he was ready for the task with which he actually coped. He 
was in the mood or frame of mind to do, if required, lots of things 
which may not have been actually required; and he was, ipso facto, 
in the mood or frame of mind to do at least this one thing which 
was actually required. Being in that frame of mind, he would do 
the thing he did, as well as, if required, lots of other things none of 
which is he stated to have done. The description of him as minding 
what he was doing is just as muck an explanatory report of an actual 
occurrence as a conditional prediction of further occurrences. 

Statements of this type are not peculiar to descriptions of the 


higher level actions and reactions of people. When a sugar-lump is 
described as dissolving, something more episodic is being said than 
when it is described as soluble; but something more dispositional 
is being said than when it is described as moist. When a bird is 
described as migrating, something more episodic is being said than 
when it is described as a migrant, but something more dispositional 
is being said than when it is described as flying in the direction of 
Africa. The sugar-lump and the bird would, in the given situation, 
do what they actually do as well as lots of other specifiable things, 
if certain specifiable conditions obtained, which may not obtain. 

The description of a bird as migrating has a greater complexity 
than the description of it as flying in the direction of Africa, but this 
greater complexity does not consist in its narrating a larger number 
of incidents. Only one thing need be going on, namely that the 
bird be at a particular moment flying south. 'It is migrating' tells 
not more stories, but a more pregnant story than that told by 'It 
is flying south'. It can be wrong in more ways and it is instructive 
in more ways. 

This point is connected with a very common use of 'because', 
one which is different from all the uses previously distinguished. 
The two statements 'the bird is flying south' and 'the bird is 
migrating' are both episodic reports. The question 'Why is the 
bird flying south?' could be answered quite properly by saying 
'Because it is migrating'. Yet the process of migrating is not a 
different process from that of flying south; so it is not the cause 
of the bird's flying south. Nor, since it reports an episode, 
does the sentence 'because it is migrating' say the same 
sort of thing as is said in 'because it is a migrant'. We must say that 
*it is migrating' describes a flying process in terms which are partly 
anecdotal, but are also partly predictive and explanatory. It does 
not state a law, but it describes an event in terms which are law- 
impregnated. The verb 'migrate' carries a biological message, as 
the verb 'dissolve' carries a message from chemistry. 'It is migrating' 
warrants the inference 'it is a migrant', as 'it is dissolving' 
warrants the inference 'it is soluble'. 

So. too, when it is asked why a person is reading a certain 
book, it is often correct to reply ^because he is interested in what 
he is reading'. Yet being interested in reading the book is not doing 
or undergoing two things, such that the interest is the cause of the 


reading. The interest explains the reading in the same general way, 
though not the same specific way, as the migrating explains the 
flying south. 

I have pointed out a fact about heed concepts, namely that it is 
proper to order or request someone to pay heed, exercise caution, 
take notice, study hard and so on. It is equally proper for a 
person to tell himself to do so. Now patently one cannot order a 
person merely to pay heed, or merely to take notice. For the order to 
be obeyed or disobeyed, it must be understood as specifying just what 
is to be done with heed. A pupil, a proof-reader and an oculist's 
patient might all be told, for example, to read carefully a certain 
paragraph; the pupil will be disobeying his instructions, if he 
notices the misprints but not the argument; the proof-reader will 
be disobeying his instructions, if he attends to the arguments but 
does not detect the misprints; while the oculist's patient is intended 
to report neither on the argument nor on the misprints, but only on 
the blurredness or sharpness, the blackness or greyness, the slanting- 
ness or the uprightness of the printed letters. Clearly this is true of 
heeding in general. A person cannot be described merely as taking 
interest, being absorbed or trying; he must be, for example, reading 
a leading article with interest, fishing absorbedly or trying to 
climb this tree. 'Enjoy' and 'dislike' similarly require supplementation 
by the participle of a specific active verb such as 'swimming', 'listen- 
ing to Bach' and 'doing nothing'. 

When a person is described as applying his mind to some such 
specifiable action or reaction, it is legitimate to say that he is, in a 
certain sense of the verb, 'thinking' or 'heeding' what he is doing or 
experiencing or 'applying his mind' to it. This does not mean that 
he is necessarily communing with himself about what he is doing 
or experiencing. He need not, though he may, be murmuring to 
himself comments, strictures, instructions, encouragements or 
diagnoses, though if he is doing this, it is again a proper question 
to ask whether or not he is thinking what he is murmuring. Some- 
times an addict of discourse, like Hamlet, is thought not to be 
applying his mind to a given task just because he is applying his 
mind to the secondary task of discoursing to himself about his 
primary task; and sometimes 3 person who should be trying to 
converse in French actually distracts himself from his proper 
business by conversing with himself in English about how he is 


conducting it. Thinking or heeding what one is doing does not 
entail constantly or recurrently making intelligent prose moves. 
On the contrary, making intelligent prose moves is just one example 
among others of thinking or heeding what one is doing, since it is 
saying things, thinking what one is saying. It is one species, not the 
causal condition of heedful performance. But certainly didactic 
telling, intelligently given and intelligently received, is often an 
indispensable guide to execution. There are many things which 
we cannot do, or do well, unless we pay heed to appropriate and 
timely instructions, even when we ourselves have to be the authors 
of those instructions. In such cases, trying to do the tiling involves 
both trying to give oneself the right instructions at the right time 
and trying to follow them. 

We should now consider a type of action which, though quite 
uninventive, involves some degree of heed, as instinctive and purely 
habitual or reflex actions do not involve heed. A soldier who fixes 
his bayonet in obedience to an order may go through just the same 
movements as one who fixes his bayonet for any other purpose. 
'Obediently' docs not signify a muscularly peculiar manner of 
operating. Nor does it denote, or connote, any self-communings 
or self-instructings. For he has not been ordered to do these things, 
and if he does them they do not explain away his bayonet-fixing, 
since following self-instructions would simply be another instance 
of acting obediently. Yet fixing his bayonet obediently is certainly 
fixing his bayonet with, in some sense, the thought that this is what 
he was told to do. He would not have done it, had the order been 
different or been misheard, and if asked why he did it, he would 
unhesitatingly reply by referring to the order. 

Nor is he doing two things, namely both fixing his bayonet and 
obeying an order, any more than the migrating bird was both 
flying south and doing or undergoing something else. He obeys 
the order by fixing his bayonet. The question, 'did he heed the 
order?' is quite satisfactorily answered by, 'yes, he fixed his bayonet 
the moment the order was given'. But, of course, he might not 
have heard the order and merely fixed his bayonet for fun at what 
happened to be the right moment. In that case it would be false 
to say that he had fixed his bayoneV in obedience to an order. 

We might say that his primary object was to obey whatever 
order was given him by his sergeant. If we ask 'To what was he 


applying his mind?' the answer is 'to his orders'. He was only set 
to fix his bayonet, if this were to be the thing his sergeant was to 
tell him to do. The description of his frame of mind contains a 
direct reference to his orders and only an oblique, because 
conditional reference to fixing his bayonet. His action of fixing his 
bayonet is, so to speak, executed in inverted commas; he does it as 
the particular thing actually ordered. He would have done something 
else, had the order been different. He is in the frame of mind to do 
whatever he is ordered, including fixing his bayonet. His fixing it 
is conditionally retro-predictable and a value of the variable con- 
dition has been fulfilled. 

Similarly a mimic does, perhaps, nothing but utter some words, 
or make some gesticulations, but he produces precisely these words 
and gesticulations only as representing the precise words and 
gesticulations of their original author. Had the original author 
spoken or acted in any other way, the mimic would have done so 
too. He does not have concomitantly to be telling himself or his 
companions that this is how the original author spoke and gesticu- 
lated. Showing how he talked and shrugged need not be prefaced 
or accompanied by any descriptive commentary; sometimes it 
cannot be so prefaced or accompanied, since descriptive skill is 
often inferior to histrionic skill. The mimic produces his words and 
shrugs as facsimiles of those of the subject mimicked, but he does not 
have to be currently asserting that they are facsimiles. 

But what is the force of this word 'as', when we say that an 
agent does something as the action ordered or as a facsimile or as 
practice or as a means to an end or as a game; or, in general, as 
the execution of a specific programme? What is the difference 
between going merely mechanically through certain movements 
and trying to satisfy some specific requirement by going through, 
perhaps, perfectly similar movements? Or what is the difference 
between fixing bayonets in compliance with a command and fixing 
bayonets in order to fight? 

It is not enough, though it is true, to say that the soldier fixes 
his bayonet on purpose, namely on purpose to do what he is told, 
or on purpose to defend himself, since our present question amounts 
to this: Given that 'the bird is migrating' and 'the soldier is 
obediently fixing his bayonet* are both mongrel categorical 
statements, what is the difference between them which we signalise 



by saying that the soldier is, but the bird is not applying his mind or 
acting on purpose ? 

At least a minimal part of the answer is this. To say that a 
sugar-lump is dissolving, a bird migrating, or a man blinking does 
not imply that the sugar has learned to go liquid, that the bird has 
learned to fly south in the autumn, or that the man has learned to 
blink when startled. But to say that a soldier obediently fixed his 
bayonet, or fixed it in order to defend himself, does imply that he 
has learned some lessons and not forgotten them. The new recruit, 
on hearing the order to fix bayonet, or on seeing an enemy soldier 
approaching, does not know what to do with his bayonet, how to 
do it, or when to do it and when not to do it. He may not even know 
how to construe or obey orders. 

Not all acquired capacities or propensities can be classed as 
qualities of mind. The habit of going to sleep on one's right side 
is not a quality of intellect or character; the habit of saying 
'Twecdlcdce', aloud or in one's head, on hearing the word 
'Tweedledum', is a trick we have picked up, though we should 
hardly claim it as a trick that we have learnt. It sticks but we did 
not try to get it to stick; nor do we ordinarily use or apply it. 
Picking up tilings by rote without trying to do so is the vanishing- 
point of learning. Even learning rhymes by heart, when done 
with application, though it is a primitive form of learning, does 
generate not only the trumpery capacity to recite those rhymes, 
but also the more valuable capacity to learn all sorts of other things 
by heart, as well as the still more valuable capacity to generate all 
sorts of capacities by study. It is a primitive lesson in becoming 
generally teachable. 

Children, semi-literates, old-fashioned soldiers and some peda- 
gogues tend to suppose that being taught and trained consist in 
becoming able merely to echo the exact lessons taught. But this 
is an error. We should not say that the child had done more than 
begin to learn his multiplication-tables if all he could do were to 
go through them correctly from beginning to end. He has not 
learned them properly unless he can promptly give the right 
answer to any snap multiplication problem (lower than 12x13), 
and unless he can apply his tabled by telling us, e.g. how many toes 
there are in a room in which there are six people. Nor is a man a 
trained rock-climber who can cope only with the same nursery- 


climbs over which he was taught, in conditions just like those in 
which he was taught, and then only by going through the very 
motions which he had been then made to perform. Learning is 
becoming capable of doing some correct or suitable thing in any 
situations of certain general sorts. It is becoming prepared for 
variable calls within certain ranges. 

To describe someone as now doing something with some degree 
of some sort of heed is to say not merely that he has had some such 
preparation, but that he is actually meeting a concrete call and so 
meeting it that he would have met, or will meet, some of whatever 
other calls of that range might have cropped up, or may crop up. 
He is in a 'ready' frame of mind, for he both does what he does 
with readiness to do just that in just this situation and is ready to do 
some of whatever else he may be called on to do. To describe a 
driver as taking care does not entail that it has occurred to him 
that a donkey may bolt out of that side street. He can be ready for 
such contingencies without having anticipated them. Indeed, he 
might have anticipated them without being ready for them. 

Earlier in this chapter I undertook to explain why it is that 
though applying one's mind to a task does not consist in coupling 
an inspecting or researching operation with the performance of 
that task, yet we expect a person who applies his mind to anything 
to be able to tell, without research, what he has been engaged in 
or occupied with. Heeding is not a secondary occupation of 
theorising, yet it seems to entail having at the tip of one's tongue 
the answers to theoretical questions about one's primary occupation. 
How can I have knowledge of what I have been non-absent- 
mindedly doing or feeling, unless doing or feeling something with 
my mind on it at least incorporates some study of what I am doing 
or feeling? How could I now describe what I had not previously 

Part of the answer seems to be this. Not all talk, and certainly 
not the most rudimentary talk, consists in imparting items of general 
knowledge. We do not, for instance, begin by telling the infant 
the names of things in which he is at the moment not taking an 
interest. We begin by telling him the names of tilings in which 
he is then and there taking an inierest.Use of the names of things is 
thus injected into interest in the things. In a partially similar way 
we give the child instructions, counsels, demonstrations, rebukes 


and encouragements for what he is currently essaying; we do not 
wait until he is unoccupied, before we teach him how things should 
be done. Nor does the fact that the coaching is concurrent with 
the performance necessarily render it a distraction from that per- 
formance. Trying to comply with the teaching is part of trying 
to do the thing, and as the child leams to do the thing, he also learns 
to understand better and apply better the lessons in doing the thing. 
Hence he learns, too, to double the roles of instructor and pupil; 
he learns to coach himself and to heed his own coaching, i.e. to 
suit his deeds to his own words. 

The good referee does not blow his whistle at every moment of 
the game, nor does the trained player cease to apply his mind 
to the game whenever he attends to the referee's whistle; rather, 
he shows that he is not applying his mind to the game unless he 
does attend to the whistle. We are all trained in some degree to be 
our own referees, and though we are not, all or most of the time, 
blowing our whistles, we are most of the time ready or half- 
ready to blow them, if the situation requires it, and to comply with 
them, when they are blown. 

The referee's interventions in the game are normally peremptory 
rather than descriptive or informative. He is there to help the game 
to go on rather than to satisfy the journalists about what is going 
on. He gives rulings and rebukes rather than reports. But to be 
ready to give an appropriate ruling, when the state of the game 
requires it, is also to be ready to give a report, if the journalists 
clamour for it. He knows what fiats to give, so he knows what 
facts to report. But he does not have to study his fiats in order to 
glean some facts. Roughly, he needs only to adjust his tone of voice 
to tell prosaically what he might otherwise have bellowed 
peremptorily, or ruled incisively. Telling things in the indicative 
mood is telling them in the most sophisticated, because most dis- 
passionate manner. 

Similarly, we, if duly trained, can, much of the time, deliver to 
ourselves the injunctions, suggestions and verdicts that are more 
or less pertinent and contributory to whatever is at that moment 
occupying us. When we make the transition from telling ourselves 
the pertinent admonitory or judicial things to telling questioners 
(who may also be ourselves) the correct descriptive things, we 
have to do, not research, but re-wording. Knowing what to say 


pertinently to some requirements is knowing also what to say 
pertinently to other requirements. Where we cannot talk much to 
ourselves as coaches or judges, as in inventing jokes, reading 
characters or composing lyrics, we also cannot tell inquirers much 
about what we are doing. We then speak of 'inspiration' and 
'intuition', and this exempts us from having to answer questions. 

(5) Achievements. 

There is another class of episodic words which, for our purposes, 
merit special attention, namely the class of episodic words which I 
have elsewhere labelled 'achievement words', 'success words' or 
'got it words', together with their antitheses the 'failure words' 
or 'missed it words'. These are genuine episodic words, for it is 
certainly proper to say of someone that he scored a goal at a par- 
ticular moment, repeatedly solved anagrams, or was quick to 
see the joke or find the thimble. Some words of this class signify 
more or less sudden climaxes or denouements; others signify 
more or less protracted proceedings. The thimble is found, the 
opponent checkmated, or the race won, at a specifiable instant; but 
the secret may be kept, the enemy held at bay, or the lead be retained, 
throughout a long span of time. The sort of success which consists 
in descrying the hawk differs in this way from the sort of success 
which consists in keeping it in view. 

The verbs with which we ordinarily express these gettings and 
keepings are active verbs, such as 'win', 'unearth', 'find', 'cure', 
'convince', 'prove', 'cheat', 'unlock', 'safeguard' and 'conceal'; and 
this grammatical fact has tended to make people, with the exception 
of Aristotle, oblivious to the differences of logical behaviour 
between verbs of this class and other verbs of activity or process. 
The differences, for example, between kicking and scoring, treating 
and healing, hunting and finding, clutching and holding fast, listen- 
ing and hearing, looking and seeing, travelling and arriving, have 
been construed, if they have been noticed at all, as differences 
between co-ordinate species of activity or process, when in fact the 
differences are of quite another kind. It has been all the easier to 
overlook these differences, since we very often borrow achievement 
verbs to signify the performance'of the corresponding task activities, 
where the hopes of success are good. A runner may be described as 
winning his race from the start, despite the fact that he may not win 


it in the end; and a doctor may boast that he is curing his patient's 
pneumonia, when his treatment does not in fact result in the antici- 
pated recovery. 'Hear' is sometimes used as a synonym of 'listen' 
and 'mend' as a synonym of 'try to mend'. 

One big difference between the logical force of a task verb and 
that of a corresponding achievement verb is that in applying an 
achievement verb we are asserting that some state of affairs obtains 
over and above that which consists in the performance, if any, of 
the subservient task activity. For a runner to win, not only must he 
run but also his rivals must be at the tape later than he ; for a doctor 
to effect a cure, his patient must both be treated and be well again ; 
for the searcher to find the thimble, there must be a thimble in 
the place he indicates at the moment when he indicates it; and for 
the mathematician to prove a theorem, the theorem must be true 
and follow from the premisses from which he tries to show that it 
follows. An autobiographical account of the agent's exertions and 
feelings does not by itself tell whether he has brought off what he 
was trying to bring off. He may rashly claim the expected success, 
but he will withdraw his claim if he discovers that, despite his 
having done the best he could, something has still gone wrong. 
I withdraw my claim to have seen a misprint, or convinced the 
voter, if I find that there was no misprint, or that the voter has cast 
his vote for my opponent. 

It is a consequence of this general point that it is always 
significant, though not, of course, always true, to ascribe a success 
partly or wholly to luck. A clock may be repaired by a random 
jolt and the treasure may be unearthed by the first spade-thrust. 

It follows, too, that there can be achievements which are prefaced 
by no task performances. We sometimes find things without 
searching, secure appointments without applying and arrive at true 
conclusions without having weighed the evidence. Things thus got 
without work are often described as 'given'. An easy catch is 
'given', a harder catch is 'offered', a difficult catch is 'made'. 

When a person is described as having fought and won, or as 
having journeyed and arrived, he is not being said to have done 
two things, but to have done one thing with a certain upshot. 
Similarly a person who has aimecf and missed has not followed up 
one occupation by another; he has done one thing, which was a 
failure. So, while we expect a person who has been trying to 


achieve something to be able to say without research what he has 
been engaged in, we do not expect him necessarily to be able to say 
without research whether he has achieved it. Achievements and 
failures are not occurrences of the right type to be objects of what 
is often, if misleadingly, called 'immediate awareness*. They are 
not acts, exertions, operations or performances, but, with reserva- 
tions for purely lucky achievements, the fact that certain acts, 
operations, exertions or performances have had certain results. 

This is why we can significantly say that someone has aimed in 
vain or successfully, but not that he has hit the target in vain or 
successfully; that he has treated his patient assiduously or un- 
assiduously, but not that he has cured him assiduously or 
unassiduously ; that he scanned the hedgerow slowly or rapidly, 
systematically or haphazardly, but not that he saw the nest slowly 
or rapidly, systematically or haphazardly. Adverbs proper to task 
verbs are not generally proper to achievement verbs; in particular, 
heed adverbs like 'carefully', 'attentively', 'studiously', 'vigilantly', 
'conscientiously' and 'pertinaciously' cannot be used to qualify such 
cognitive verbs as 'discover', 'prove', 'solve', 'detect' or 'see', any 
more than they can qualify such verbs as 'arrive', 'repair', 'buy' or 

There are many episodic verbs which are used to describe 
items in the inquisitive life of human beings, and the failure to 
notice that some of these verbs are achievement verbs while others 
are task verbs has been the source of some gratuitous puzzles and, 
accordingly, of some mystery-mongering theories. Special cognitive 
acts and operations have been postulated to answer to such verbs as 
'see', 'hear', 'taste', 'deduce' and 'recall' in the way in which 
familiar acts and operations do answer to such verbs as 'kick', 'run', 
'look', 'listen', 'wrangle' and 'tell'; as if to describe a person as look- 
ing and seeing were like describing him as walking and humming 
instead of being like describing him as angling and catching, or 
searching and finding. But perception verbs cannot, like search 
verbs, be qualified by such adverbs as 'successfully', 'in vain', 
'methodically', 'inefficiently', 'laboriously', 'lazily', 'rapidly', 'care- 
fully', 'reluctantly', 'zealously', 'obediently', 'deliberately' or 'con- 
fidently'. They do not stand foj performances, or ways of being 
occupied; a fortiori they do not stand for secret performances, or 
ways of being privily occupied. To put it crudely, they belong not 


to the vocabulary of the player, but to the vocabulary of the referee. 
They are not tryings, but things got by trying or by luck. 

Epistemologists have sometimes confessed to finding the 
supposed cognitive activities of seeing, hearing and inferring oddly 
elusive. If I descry a hawk, I find the hawk but I do not find my 
seeing of the hawk. My seeing of the hawk seems to be a queerly 
transparent sort of process, transparent in that while a hawk is 
detected, nothing else is detected answering to the verb in 'see a 
hawk/ But the mystery dissolves when we realise that 'see', 'descry' 
and 'find' are not process words, experience words or activity 
words. They do not stand for perplexingly undetectable actions or 
reactions, any more than 'win' stands for a perplexingly undetectable 
bit of running, or 'unlock' for an unreported bit of key-turning. 
The reason why I cannot catch myself seeing or deducing is that 
these verbs are of the wrong type to complete the phrase 'catch 
myself. . . .' The questions 'What are you doing ?' and 'What was he 
undergoing?' cannot be answered by 'seeing', 'concluding', or 

The distinction between task verbs and achievement verbs or 
'try' verbs and 'got it' verbs frees us from another theoretical 
nuisance. It has long been realised that verbs like 'know', 'discover', 
'solve', 'prove', 'perceive', 'see' and 'observe' (at least in certain 
standard uses of 'observe') are in an important way incapable of 
being qualified by adverbs like 'erroneously' and 'incorrectly'. 
Automatically construing these and kindred verbs as standing for 
special kinds of operations or experiences, some cpistemologists 
have felt themselves obliged to postulate that people possess certain 
special inquiry procedures in following which they are subject to 
no risk of error. They need not, indeed they cannot, execute them 
carefully, for they provide no scope for care. The logical impossi- 
bility of a discovery being fruitless, or of a proof being invalid, has 
been misconstrued as a quasi-causal impossibility of going astray. 
If only the proper road were followed, or if only the proper faculty 
were given its head, incorrigible observations or self-evident 
intuitions could not help ensuing. So men are sometimes infallible. 
Similarly if hitting the bull's eye were construed as a special kind 
of aiming, or if curing were construed as a special kind of treatment, 
then, since neither could, in logic, be at fault, it would follow that 
there existed special fault-proof ways of aiming and doctoring. 


There would exist some temporarily infallible marksmen and some 
occasionally infallible doctors. 

Other epistemologists, properly disrelishing the ascription of 
even temporary infallibility to human beings, have taken up an 
equally impossible position. Again automatically construing these 
achievement verbs as standing for special kinds of operations or 
experiences, they have asserted that the operations or experiences 
for which they stand are, after all, not fault-proof. We can know 
what is not the case, prove things fallaciously, solve problems 
erroneously and see what is not there to be seen, which is like 
saying that we can hit the bull's eye with an 'outer', cure a patient 
by aggravating his complaint, or win a race without being first at 
the tape. There is, of course, no incompatibility between losing a 
race and lodging a claim to have won it, or between aggravating 
a complaint and boasting of having cured it. Merely saying 'I see 
a hawk' does not entail that there is a hawk there, though saying 
truly 'I see a hawk' does entail this. 

This assimilation of certain so-called cognitive verbs to the 
general class of achievement verbs must not be supposed to elucidate 
everything. The fact that the logical behaviour of 'deduce' is in 
some respects like that of 'score', 'checkmate' or 'unlock' does not 
involve that it is in every respect like that of any of them ; nor is 
arriving at a conclusion in every respect like arriving in Paris. My 
argument has been intended to have the predominantly negative 
point of exhibiting both why it is wrong, and why it is tempting, to 
postulate mysterious actions and reactions to correspond with 
certain familiar biographical episodic words. 



(i) Foreword. 

A NATURAL counterpart to the theory that minds constitute 
a world other than 'the physical world' is the theory that there 
exist ways of discovering the contents of this other world which are 
counterparts to our ways of discovering the contents of the physical 
world. In sense perception we ascertain what exists and happens in 
space; so what exists or happens in the mind must also be ascertained 
in perception, but perception of a different and refined sort, one 
not requiring the functioning of gross bodily organs. 

More than this, it has been thought necessary to show that minds 
possess powers of apprehending their own states and operations 
superior to those they possess of apprehending facts of the external 
world. If I am to know, believe, guess or even wonder anything 
about the things and happenings that are outside me, I must, it 
has been supposed, enjoy constant and mistake-proof apprehension 
of these selfsame cognitive operations of mine. 

It is often held therefore (i) that a mind cannot help being 
constantly aware of all the supposed occupants of its private stage, 
and (2) that it can also deliberately scrutinise by a species of non- 
sensuous perception at least some of its own states and operations. 
Moreover both this constant awareness (generally called 'conscious- 
ness'), and this non-sensuous inner perception (generally called 
'introspection') have been supposed to be exempt from error. A 
mind has a twofold Privileged Access to its own doings, 
which makes its self-knowledge superior in quality, as well as 
prior in genesis, to its grasp of other things. I may doubt the 
evidence of my senses but not the deliverances of consciousness or 

One limitation has always been conceded to the mind's power 
of finding mental states and operations, namely that while I can 



have direct knowledge of my own states and operations, I cannot 
have it of yours. I am conscious of all my own feelings, volitions, 
emotions and thinkings, and I introspectively scrutinise some of 
them. But I cannot introspectively observe, or be conscious of, the 
workings of your mind. I can satisfy myself that you have a mind 
at all only by complex and frail inferences from what your body 

This theory of the twofold Privileged Access has won so strong 
a hold on the thoughts of philosophers, psychologists and many 
laymen that it is now often thought to be enough to say, on behalf 
of the dogma of the mind as a second theatre, that its consciousness 
and introspection discover the scenes enacted in it. On the view for 
which I am arguing consciousness and introspection cannot be 
what they are officially described as being, since their supposed 
objects are myths ; but champions of the dogma of the ghost in 
the machine tend to argue that the imputed objects of consciousness 
and introspection cannot be myths, since we are conscious of them 
and can introspectively observe them. The reality of these objects 
is guaranteed by the venerable credentials of these supposed ways of 
finding them. 

In this chapter, then, I try to show that the official theories of 
consciousness and introspection are logical muddles. But I am not, 
of course, trying to establish that we do not or cannot know what 
there is to know about ourselves. On the contrary, I shall try to 
show how we attain such knowledge, but only after I have proved 
that this knowledge is not attained by consciousness or introspection, 
as these supposed Privileged Accesses are normally described. Lest 
any reader feels despondency at the thought of being deprived of 
his twofold Privileged Access to his supposed inner self, I may add 
the consolatory undertaking that on the account of self-knowledge 
that I shall give, knowledge of what there is to be known about 
other people is restored to approximate parity with self-knowledge. 
The sorts of things that I can find out about myself are the same as 
the sorts of things that I can find out about other people, and the 
methods of finding them out are much the same. A residual difference 
in the supplies of the requisite data makes some differences in degree 
between what I can know about fnyself and what I can know about 
you, but these differences are not all in favour of self-knowledge. 
In certain quite important respects it is easier for me to find out 


what I want to know about you than it is for me to find out the 
same sorts of things about myself. In certain other important 
respects it is harder. But in principle, as distinct from practice, 
John Doe's ways of finding out about John Doe are the same as 
John Doe's ways of finding out about Richard Roe. To drop the 
hope of Privileged Access is also to drop the fear of epistemological 
isolationism; we lose the bitters with the sweets of Solipsism. 

(2) Consciousness. 

Before starting to discuss the philosophers' concept or concepts 
of consciousness, it is advisable to consider some ways in which 
the words 'conscious' and 'consciousness' are used, when un- 
committed to special theories, in ordinary life. 

(a) People often speak in this way; they say, 'I was conscious 
that the furniture had been rearranged', or, 'I was conscious that he 
was less friendly than usual'. In such contexts the word 'conscious' 
is used instead of words like 'found out', 'realised' and 'discovered' 
to indicate a certain noteworthy nebulousness and consequent 
inarticulateness of the apprehension. The furniture looked different 
somehow, but the observer could not say what the differences 
were ; or the man's attitude was unaccommodating in a number of 
ways, but the speaker could not enumerate or specify them. Though 
there are philosophically interesting problems about vagueness as 
well as about the inexpressibility of the very nebulous, this use of 
'conscious' does not entail the existence of any special faculties, 
methods, or channels of apprehension. What we are conscious of, 
in this sense, may be a physical fact, or a fact about someone else's 
state of mind. 

(b) People often use 'conscious' and 'self-conscious' in describing 
the embarrassment exhibited by persons, especially youthful 
persons, who are anxious about the opinions held by others of 
their qualities of character or intellect. Shyness and affectation are 
ways in which self-consciousness, in this sense, is commonly 

(c) 'Self-conscious' is sometimes used in a more general sense to 
indicate that someone has reached the stage of paying heed to his 
own qualities of character or intellect, irrespective of whether or 
not he is embarrassed about other people's estimations of them. 
When a boy begins to notice that he is fonder of arithmetic, or less 


homesick, than are most of his acquaintances he is beginning to be 
self-conscious, in this enlarged sense. 

Self-consciousness, in this enlarged sense is, of course, of primary 
importance for the conduct of life, and the concept of it is therefore 
of importance for Ethics; but its ingenuous use entails no special 
doctrines about how a person makes and checks his estimates of his 
own qualities of character and intellect, or how he compares them 
with those of his acquaintances. 

The Freudian idioms of the 'Unconscious' and the ' Subconscious* 
are closely connected with this use of 'conscious' ; for at least part 
of what is meant by describing jealousy, phobias or erotic impulses 
as 'unconscious' is that the victim of them not only does not 
recognise their strength, or even existence, in himself, but in a 
certain way will not recognise them. He shirks a part of the task of 
appreciating what sort of a person he is, or else he systematically 
biases his appreciations. The epistemological question how a person 
makes his estimates or mis-estimates of his own dispositions is not, 
or need not be, begged by the Freudian account of the aetiology, 
diagnosis, prognosis and cure of the tendencies to shirk and bias 
such estimates. 

(d) Quite different from the foregoing uses of 'conscious', 
'self-conscious' and 'unconscious', is the use in which a numbed or 
anaesthetised person is said to have lost consciousness from his feet 
up to his knees. In this use 'conscious' means 'sensitive' or 'sentient' 
and 'unconscious' means anaesthetised or insensitive. We say that a 
person has lost consciousness when he had ceased to be sensitive to 
any slaps, noises, pricks or smells. 

(e) Different from, though closely connected with this last use, 
there is the sense in which a person can be said to be unconscious of 
a sensation, when he pays no heed to it. A walker engaged in a heated 
dispute may be unconscious, in this sense, of the sensations in his 
blistered heel, and the reader of these words was, when he began 
this sentence, probably unconscious of the muscular and skin 
sensations in the back of his neck, or in his left knee. A person may 
also be unconscious or unaware that he is frowning, beating time 
to the music, or muttering. 

'Conscious' in this sense means 'heeding'; and it makes sense to 
say that a sensation is hardly noticed even when the sensation is 
moderately acute, namely when the victim's attention is fixed very 


strongly on something else. Conversely, a person may pay sharp heed 
to very faint sensations; when, for instance, he is scared of 
appendicitis, he will be acutely conscious, in this sense, of stomachic 
twinges which are not at all acute. In this sense, too, a person may 
be keenly conscious, hardly conscious, or quite unconscious, of 
feelings like twinges of anxiety, or qualms of doubt. 

The fact that a person takes heed of his organic sensations and 
feelings does not entail that he is exempt from error about them. 
He can make mistakes about their causes and he can make mistakes 
about their locations. Furthermore, he can make mistakes about 
whether they are real or fancied, as hypochondriacs do. 'Heeding' 
does not denote a peculiar conduit of cognitive certainties. 

Philosophers, chiefly since Descartes, have in their theories of 
knowledge and conduct operated with a concept of consciousness 
which has relatively little affinity with any of the concepts described 
above. Working with the notion of the mind as a second theatre, 
the episodes enacted in which enjoy the supposed status of 'the 
mental* and correspondingly lack the supposed status of 'the 
physical', thinkers of many sorts have laid it down as the cardinal 
positive property of these episodes that, when they occur, they occur 
consciously. The states and operations of a mind are states and 
operations of which it is necessarily aware, in some sense of 'aware', 
and this awareness is incapable of being delusive. The things that 
a mind does or experiences are self-intimating, and this is supposed 
to be a feature which characterises these acts and feelings not just 
sometimes but always. It is part of the definition of their being 
mental that their occurrence entails that they are self-intimating. 
If I think, hope, remember, will, regret, hear a noise, or feel a pain, 
I must, ipso facto, know that I do so. Even if I dream that I see a 
dragon, I must be apprised of my dragon-seeing, though, it is often 
conceded, I may not know that I am dreaming. 

It is naturally difficult, if one denies the existence of the second 
theatre, to elucidate what is meant by describing the episodes which 
are supposed to take place in it as self-intimating. But some points 
are clear enough. It is not supposed that when I am wondering, 
say, what is the answer to a puzzle and am ipso facto consciously 
doing so, that I am synchronously performing two acts of attention, 
one to the puzzle and the other to my wondering about it. Nor, to 
generalise this point, is it supposed that my act of wondering and 


its self-intimation to me are two distinct acts or processes indis- 
solubly welded together. Rather, to relapse perforce into simile, 
it is supposed that mental processes are phosphorescent, like tropical 
sea-water, which makes itself visible by the light which it itself 
emits. Or, to use another simile, mental processes are 'overheard* 
by the mind whose processes they are, somewhat as a speaker 
overhears the words he is himself uttering. 

When the epistemologists' concept of consciousness first became 
popular, it seems to have been in part a transformed application of 
the Protestant notion of conscience. The Protestants had to hold 
that a man could know the moral state of his soul and the wishes of 
God without the aid of confessors and scholars; they spoke therefore 
of the God-given 'light' of private conscience. When Galileo's and 
Descartes' representations of the mechanical world seemed to 
require that minds should be salved from mechanism by being 
represented as constituting a duplicate world, the need was felt 
to explain how the contents of this ghostly world could be ascer- 
tained, again without the help of schooling, but also without the 
help of sense perception. The metaphor of 'light' seemed peculiarly 
appropriate, since Galilean science dealt so largely with the optically 
discovered world. 'Consciousness' was imported to play in the 
mental world the part played by light in the mechanical world. In 
this metaphorical sense, the contents of the mental world were 
thought of as being self-luminous or refulgent. 

This model was employed again by Locke when he described 
the deliberate observational scrutiny which a mind can from time 
to time turn upon its current states and processes. He called this 
supposed inner perception 'reflexion' (our 'introspection'), borrow- 
ing the word 'reflexion' from the familiar optical phenomenon of 
the reflections of faces in mirrors. The mind can 'see' or 'look at* 
its own operations in the 'light' given of by themselves. The myth 
of consciousness is a piece of para-optics. 

These similes of 'over-hearing', 'phosphorescence' or *self- 
luminousness' suggest another distinction which needs to be made. 
It is certainly true that when I do, feel or witness something, I usually 
could and frequently do pay swift retrospective heed to what I have 
just done, felt or witnessed. I k<sep, much of the time, some sort 
of log or score of what occupies me, in such a way that, if asked what 
I had just been hearing or picturing or saying, I could usually give a 


correct answer. Of course, I cannot always be actually harking back 
to the immediate past; or else, within a few seconds of being called 
in the morning, I should be recalling that I had just been recalling 
that I had just been recalling . . . hearing the knock on the door; 
one event would generate an endless series of recollections of 
recollections ... of it, leaving no room for me to pay heed to any 
subsequent happening. There is, however, a proper sense in which 
I can be said generally to know what has just been engaging my 
notice or half-notice, namely that I generally could give a memory 
report of it, if there was occasion to do so. This does not exclude 
the possibility that I might sometimes give a misreport, for even 
short-term reminiscence is not exempt from carelessness or bias. 

The point of mentioning this fact that we generally could, if 
required, report what had just been engaging our notice is that 
consciousness, as the prevalent view describes it, differs from this 
log-keeping in one or two important respects. First, according to 
the theory, mental processes are conscious, not in the sense that we 
do or could report on them post mortem, but in the sense that their 
intimations of their own occurrences are properties of those 
occurrences and so are not posterior to them. The supposed 
deliverances of consciousness, if verbally expressible at all, would be 
expressed in the present, not in the past tense. Next, it is supposed 
that in being conscious of my present mental states and acts I know 
what I am experiencing and doing in a non-dispositional sense of 
'know'; that is to say, it is not merely the case that I could, if 
occasion demanded, tell myself or you what I am experiencing and 
doing, but that I am actively cognisant of it. Though a double act 
of attention does not occur, yet when I discover that my watch 
has stopped, I am synchronously discovering that I am discovering 
that my watch has stopped; a truth about myself is flashed or shone 
upon me at the same moment as a truth about my watch is ascer- 
tained by me. 

I shall argue that consciousness, as so described, is a myth and 
shall probably therefore be construed as arguing that mental 
processes are, in some mortifying sense, unconscious, perhaps in 
the sort of way in which I often cannot tell of my own habitual 
and reflex movements. To safeguard against this misinterpretation 
I say quite summarily first, that we do usually know what we are 
about, but that no phosphorescence-story is required to explain 


how we are apprised of it; second, that knowing what we are 
about does not entail an incessant actual monitoring or scrutiny 
of our doings and feelings, but only the propensity inter alia to 
avow them, when we are in die mood to do so ; and, third, that the 
fact that we generally know what we are about does not entail our 
coming across any happenings of ghostly status. 

The radical objection to the theory that minds must know what 
they are about, because mental happenings are by definition 
conscious, or metaphorically self-luminous, is that there are no such 
happenings ; there are no occurrences taking place in a second-status 
world, since there is no such status and no such world and conse- 
quently no need for special modes of acquainting ourselves with the 
denizens of such a world. But there are also other objections 
which do not depend for their acceptance upon the rejection of 
the dogma of the ghost in the machine. 

First, and this is not intended to be more than a persuasive 
argument, no one who is uncommitted to a philosophical theory 
ever tries to vindicate any of his assertions of fact by saying that he 
found it out 'from consciousness', or 'as a direct deliverance of 
consciousness', or 'from immediate awareness'. He will back up 
some of his assertions of fact by saying that he himself sees, hears, 
feels, smells or tastes so and so ; he will back up other such statements, 
somewhat more tentatively, by saying that he remembers seeing, 
hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting it. But if asked whether he 
really knows, believes, infers, fears, remembers or smells something, 
he never replies 'Oh yes, certainly I do, for I am conscious and even 
vividly conscious of doing so'. Yet just such a reply should, according 
to the doctrine, be his final appeal. 

Next, it is supposed that my being conscious of my mental 
states and operations either is my knowing them, or is the necessary 
and sufficient ground for my doing so. But to say this is to abuse 
the logic and even the grammar of the verb 'to know'. It is nonsense 
to speak of knowing, or not knowing, this clap of thunder or that 
twinge of pain, this coloured surface or that act of drawing a 
conclusion or seeing a joke; these are accusatives of the wrong 
types to follow the verb 'to know'. To know and to 
be ignorant are to know and not to know that something 
is the case, for example that that rumble is a clap of thunder 
or that that coloured surface is a cheese-rind. And this is just the 


point where the metaphor of light is unhelpful. Good illumination 
helps us to see cheese-rinds, but we could not say 'the light was too 
bad for me to know the cheese-rind', since knowing is not the same 
sort of thing as looking at, and what is known is not the same sort 
of thing as what is illuminated. True, we can say 'owing to the 
darkness I could not recognise what I saw for a cheese-rind', but 
again recognising what I see is not another optical performance. 
We do not ask for one torch to help us to see and another to help 
us to recognise what we see. So even if there were some analogy 
between a thing's being illuminated and a mental process's being 
conscious, it would not follow that the owner of the process 
would recognise that process for what it was. It might conceivably 
explain how mental processes were discernible but it could not 
possibly explain how we ascertain truths and avoid or correct 
mistakes about them. 

Next, there is no contradiction in asserting that someone might 
fail to recognise his frame of mind for what it is; indeed, it is 
notorious that people constantly do so. They mistakenly suppose 
themselves to know things which are actually false; they deceive 
themselves about their own motives; they are surprised to notice 
the clock stopping ticking, without their having, as they think, 
been aware that it had been ticking; they do not know that they 
are dreaming, when they are dreaming, and sometimes they are not 
sure that they are not dreaming, when they are awake; and they 
deny, in good faith, that they are irritated or excited, when they are 
flustered in one or other of those ways. If consciousness was what 
it is described as being, it would be logically impossible for such 
failures and mistakes in recognition to take place. 

Finally, even though the self-intimation supposed to be inherent 
in any mental state or process is not described as requiring a separate 
act of attention, or as constituting a separate cognitive operation, 
still what I am conscious of in a process of inferring, say, is different 
from what the inferring is an apprehension of. My consciousness 
is of a process of inferring, but my inferring is, perhaps, of a 
geometrical conclusion from geometrical premisses. The verbal 
expression of my inference might be, 'because this is an 
equilateral triangle, therefore each angle is 60 degrees', but the verbal 
expression of what I am conscious of might be 'Here I am deducing 
such and such from so and so*. But, if so, then it would seem to make 


sense to ask whether, according to the doctrine, I am not also 
conscious of being conscious of inferring, that is, in a position to say 
'Here I am spotting the fact that here I am deducing such and such 
from so and so'. And then there would be no stopping-place; there 
would have to be an infinite number of onion-skins of consciousness 
embedding any mental state or process whatsoever. If this conclusion 
is rejected, then it will have to be allowed that some elements in 
mental processes are not themselves things we can be conscious of, 
namely those elements which constitute the supposed outermost 
self-intimations of mental processes; and then 'conscious' could no 
longer be retained as part of the definition of 'mental'. 

The argument, then, that mental events are authentic, because 
the deliverances of consciousness are direct and unimpeachable 
testimony to their existence, must be rejected. So must the partly 
parallel argument from the findings of introspection. 

(3) Introspection. 

'Introspection' is a term of art and one for which little use is 
found in the self-descriptions of untheoretical people. More use is 
found for the adjective 'introspective', which is ordinarily used 
in an innocuous sense to signify that someone pays more heed than 
usual to theoretical and practical problems about his own character, 
abilities, deficiencies and oddities; there is often the extra suggestion 
that the person is abnormally anxious about these matters. 

The technical term 'introspection' has been used to denote a 
supposed species of perception. It was supposed that much as a person 
may at a particular moment be listening to a flute, savouring a wine, 
or regarding a waterfall, so he may be 'regarding', in a non-optical 
sense, some current mental state or process of his own. The state 
or process is being deliberately and attentively scrutinised and so 
can be listed among the objects of his observation. On the other 
hand, introspection is described as being unlike sense observation 
in important respects. Things looked at, or listened to, are public 
objects, in principle observable by any suitably placed observer, 
whereas only the owner of a mental state or process is supposed to 
be able introspectively to scrutinise it. Sense perception, again, 
involves the functioning of bodily organs, such as the eyes, the 
ears, or the tongue, whereas introspection involves the functioning 
of no bodily organ. Lastly, sense perception is never exempt from 


the possibility of dullness or even of illusion, whereas, anyhow 
according to the bolder theories, a person's power of observing his 
mental processes is always perfect; he may not have learned how to 
exploit his power, or how to arrange or discriminate its findings, 
but he is immune from any counterparts to deafness, astigmatism, 
colour-blindness, dazzle or muscae volitantes. Inner perception, on 
these theories, sets a standard of veridical perception, which sense 
perception can never emulate. 

The findings of introspection are reputed to differ in one way 
at least from the supposed deliverances of consciousness; intro- 
spection is an attentive operation and one which is only occasionally 
performed, whereas consciousness is supposed to be a constant 
element of all mental processes and one of which the revelations do 
not require to be receipted in special acts of attention. Moreover 
we introspect with the intention of finding the answers to particular 
problems, whereas we are conscious, whether we wish it or not; 
everyone is constantly conscious, while awake, but only those 
people introspect who are from time to time interested in what is 
going on in their minds. 

It would be admitted that only people with a special training 
ever speak of 'introspecting', but in such phrases as 'he caught 
himself wondering how to do so and so', or 'when I catch myself 
getting into a panic, I do such and such', the plain man is expressing 
at least part of what is meant by the word. 

Now supposing, (which it is the negative object of this book to 
deny,) that there did exist events of the postulated ghostly status, 
there would still be objections to the initially plausible assumption 
that there also exists a species of perception capable of having any 
of these events for its proprietary objects. For one thing, the 
occurence of such an act of inner perception would require that the 
observer could attend to two things at the same time. He would, 
for example, be both resolving to get up early and concomitantly 
observing his act of resolving; attending to the programme of 
rising betimes and perceptually attending to his attending to this 
programme. This objection is not, perhaps, logically fatal, since it 
might be argued that some people can, anyhow after practice, 
combine attention to the control of a car with attention to the 
conversation. The fact that we speak of undivided attention suggests 
that the division of attention is a possibility, though some people 


would describe the division of attention as a rapid to-and-fro 
switch of attention, rather than as a synchronous distribution of it. 
But many people who begin by being confident that they do 
introspect, as introspection is officially described, become dubious 
that they do so, when they are satisfied that they would have to be 
attending twice at once in order to do it. They are more sure that 
they do not attend twice at once than that they do introspect. 

However, even if it is claimed that in introspecting we are 
attending twice at once, it will be allowed that there is some limit 
to the number of possible synchronous acts of attention, and from 
this it follows that there must be some mental processes which 
are unintrospectible, namely those introspections which incor- 
porate the maximum possible number of synchronous acts of 
attention. The question would then arise for the holders of 
the theory how these acts would be found occurring, since if this 
knowledge was not introspectively got, it would follow that a 
person's knowledge of his own mental processes could not always 
be based on introspection. But if this knowledge does not always 
rest on introspection, it is open to question whether it ever docs. 
This objection might be countered by appeal to the other form 
of Privileged Access; we know that we introspect not by 
introspecting on our introspections, but from the direct deliverances 
of consciousness. To the guests of Charybdis, Scylla appears the 
more hospitable resort. 

When psychologists were less cautious than they have since 
become, they used to maintain that introspection was the main 
source of empirical information about the workings of minds. They 
were not unnaturally embarrassed to discover that the empirical 
facts reported by one psychologist sometimes conflicted with those 
reported by another. They reproached one another, often justly, 
with having professed to find by introspection just those mental 
phenomena which their preconceived theories had led them 
to expect to find. There still occur disputes which should be 
finally soluble by introspection, if the joint theories of the inner 
life and inner perception were true. Theorists dispute, for example, 
whether there are activities of conscience distinct from those of 
intellect and distinct from habitifel deferences to taboos. Why do 
they not look and see? Or, if they do so, why do their reports not 
tally? Again, many people who theorise about human conduct 


declare that there occur certain processes sui generis answering to the 
description of Volitions'; I have argued that there are no such 
processes. Why do we argue about the existence of these processes, 
when the question ought to be as easily decidable as the question 
whether or not there is a smell of onions in the larder? 

There is one last objection to be made against the claims for 
introspection, that made by Hume. There are some states of mind 
which cannot be coolly scrutinised, since the fact that we are in 
those states involves that we are not cool, or the fact that we are cool 
involves that we are not in those states. No one could introspectively 
scrutinise the state of panic or fury, since the dispassionateness 
exercised in scientific observation is, by the definition of 'panic* 
and 'fury', not the state of mind of the victim of those turbulences. 
Similarly, since a convulsion of merriment is not the state of 
mind of the sober experimentalist, the enjoyment of a joke is 
also not an introspectible happening. States of mind such as 
these more or less violent agitations can be examined only in 
retrospect. Yet nothing disastrous follows from this restriction. We 
are not shorter of information about panic or amusement than 
about other states of mind. If retrospection can give us the data we 
need for our knowledge of some states of mind, there is no reason 
why it should not do so for all. And this is just what seems to be 
suggested by the popular phrase 'to catch oneself doing so and so'. 
We catch, as we pursue and overtake, what is already running 
away from us. I catch myself daydreaming about a mountain walk 
after, perhaps very shortly after, I have begun the daydream; or I 
catch myself humming a particular air only when the first few notes 
have already been hummed. Retrospection, prompt or delayed, is a 
genuine process and one which is exempt from the troubles ensuing 
from the assumption of multiply divided attention; it is also exempt 
from the troubles ensuing from the assumption that violent agita- 
tions could be the objects of cool, contemporary scrutiny. 

Part, then, of what people have in mind, when they speak 
familiarly of introspecting, is this authentic process of retrospection. 
But there is nothing intrinsically ghostly about the objects of 
retrospection. In the same way that I can catch myself daydreaming, 
I can catch myself scratching; in the same way that I can catch 
myself engaged in a piece of silent soliloquy, I can catch myself 
saying something aloud. 


It is true and important that what I recall is always something 
expressible in the form 'myself doing so and so'. I recall not a 
clap of thunder but hearing the 'clap of thunder; or I catch 
myself swearing, but I do not, in the same sense, catch you swearing. 
The objects of my retrospections are items in my autobiography. 
But although personal, they need not be, though they can be, 
private or silent items of that autobiography. I can recollect seeing 
things just as much as I can recollect imagining things, my overt 
acts just as well as my sensations. I can report the calculations that 
I have been doing in my head, but I can also report the calculations 
that I have been doing on the blotter. 

Retrospection will carry some of the load of which introspection 
has been nominated for the porter. But it will not carry all of it 
and in particular it will not carry many of the philosophically 
precious or fragile parcels. Aside from the fact that even prompt 
recollection is subject both to evaporations and to dilutions, however 
accurately I may recollect an action or feeling, I may still fail to 
recognise its nature. Whether yesterday's twinge which I recall 
to-day was a pang of genuine compassion or a twinge of guilt, need 
not be any the more obvious to me for the fact that my memory of 
it is vivid. Chronicles are not explanatory of what they record. 

The fact that retrospection is autobiographical does not imply 
that it gives us a Privileged Access to facts of a special status. But of 
course it does give us a mass of data contributory to our apprecia- 
tions of our own conduct and qualities of mind. A diary is not a 
chronicle of ghostly episodes, but it is a valuable source of informa- 
tion about the diarist's character, wits and career. 

(4) Self-Knowledge without Privileged Access. 

It has been argued from a number of directions that when we 
speak of a person's mind, we are not speaking of a second theatre 
of special-status incidents, but of certain ways in which some of 
the incidents of his one life are ordered. His life is not a double 
scries of events taking place in two different kinds of stuff; it is one 
concatenation of events, the differences between some and other 
classes of which largely consist in the applicability or inapplicability 
to them of logically different typ* of law-propositions and law-like 
propositions. Assertions about a person's mind are therefore asser- 
tions of special sorts about that person. So questions about the rela- 


tions between a person and his mind, like those about the relations 
between a person's body and his mind are improper questions. 
They are improper in much the same way as is the question, 'What 
transactions go on between the House of Commons and the British 

It follows that it is a logical solecism to speak, as theorists often 
do, of someone's mind knowing this, or choosing that. The person 
himself knows this and chooses that, though the fact that he does 
so can, if desired, be classified as a mental fact about that person. 
In partly the same way it is improper to speak of my eyes seeing 
this, or my nose smelling that; we should say, rather, that I see this, 
or I smell that, and that these assertions carry with them certain 
facts about my eyes and nose. But the analogy is not exact, for while 
my eyes and nose are organs of sense, 'my mind' does not stand 
for another organ. It signifies my ability and proneness to do 
certain sorts of things and not some piece of personal apparatus 
without which I could or would not do them. Similarly the British 
Constitution is not another British political institution functioning 
alongside of the Civil Service, the Judiciary, the Established 
Church, the Houses of Parliament and the Royal Family. Nor is it 
the sum of these institutions, or a liaison-staff between them. We 
can say that Great Britain has gone to the polls; but we cannot say 
that the British Constitution has gone to the polls, though the fact 
that Great Britain has gone to the polls might be described as a 
constitutional fact about Great Britain. 

Actually, though it is not always convenient to avoid the practice, 
there is a considerable logical hazard in using the nouns 'mind' and 
'minds' at all. The idiom makes it too easy to construct logically 
improper conjunctions, disjunctions and cause-effect propositions 
such as 'so and so took place not in my body but in my mind', 
'my mind made my hand write', 'a person's body and mind interact 
upon each other' and so on.Where logical candour is required from 
us, we ought to follow the example set by novelists, biographers 
and diarists, who speak only of persons doing and undergoing tilings. 

The questions 'What knowledge can a person get of the workings 
of his own mind?' and 'How does he get it?' by their very wording 
suggest absurd answers. They suggest that, for a person to know 
that he is lazy, or has done a sum carefully, he must have taken a 
peep into a windowless chamber, illuminated by a very peculiar 


sort of light, and one to which only he has access. And when the 
question is construed in this sort of way, the parallel questions, 
'What knowledge can one person get of the workings of another 
mind?' and 'How does he get it?' by their very wording seem to 
preclude any answer at all; for they suggest that one person could 
only know that another person was lazy, or had done a sum care- 
fully, by peering into another secret chamber to which, ex hypothesi, 
he has no access. 

In fact the problem is not one of this sort. It is simply the 
methodological question, how we establish, and how we apply, 
certain sorts of law-like propositions about the overt and the silent 
behaviour of persons. I come to appreciate the skill and tactics 
of a chess-player by watching him and others playing chess, and 
I learn that a certain pupil of mine is lazy, ambitious and witty 
by following his work, noticing his excuses, listening to his 
conversation and comparing his performances with those of others. 
Nor does it make any important difference if I happen myself to be 
that pupil. I can indeed then listen to more of his conversations, as I 
am the addressee of his unspoken soliloquies ; I notice more of his 
excuses, as I am never absent, when they are made. On the other 
hand, my comparison of his performances with those of others is 
more difficult, since the examiner is himself taking the examination, 
which makes neutrality hard to preserve and precludes the demeanour 
of the candidate, when under interrogation, from being in good view. 

To repeat a point previously made, the question is not the 
envelope-question 'How do I discover that I or you have a mind?' 
but the range of specific questions of the pattern, 'How do I discover 
that I am more unselfish than you; that I can do long division well, 
but differential equations only badly; that you suffer from certain 
phobias and tend to shirk facing certain sorts of facts ; that I am 
more easily irritated than most people but less subject to panic, 
vertigo, or morbid conscientiousness?' Besides such pure disposi- 
tional questions there is also the range of particular perform- 
ance questions and occurrence questions of the patterns, 'How do I 
find out that I saw the joke and that you did not; that your action 
took more courage than mine; that the service I rendered to you 
was rendered from a sense of duty and not from expectation of 
kudos; that, though I did not fully understand what was said at the 
time, I did fully understand it, when I went over it in my head 


afterwards, while you understood it perfectly from the start; that 
I was feeling homesick yesterday?' Questions of these sorts offer 
no mysteries; we know quite well how to set to work to find 
out the answers to them; and though often we cannot finally 
solve them and may have to stop short at mere conjecture, yet, 
even so, we have no doubt what sorts of information would 
satisfy our requirements, if we could get it; and we know what it 
would be like to get it. For example, after listening to an argument, 
you aver that you understand it perfectly; but you may be deceiving 
yourself, or trying to deceive me. If we then part for a day or two, 
I am no longer in a position to test whether or not you did under- 
stand it perfectly. But still I know what tests would have settled 
the point. If you had put the argument into your own words, or 
translated it into French; if you had invented appropriate concrete 
illustrations of the generalisations and abstractions in the argument; 
if you had stood up to cross-questioning; if you had correctly 
drawn further consequences from different stages of the argument 
and indicated points where the theory was inconsistent with other 
theories; if you had inferred correctly from the nature of the 
argument to the qualities of intellect and character of its author 
and predicted accurately the subsequent development of his theory, 
then I should have required no further evidence that you understood 
it perfectly. And exactly the same sorts of tests would satisfy me 
that I had understood it perfectly; the sole differences would be 
that I should probably not have voiced aloud the expressions of my 
deductions, illustrations, etc., but told them to myself more 
perfunctorily in silent soliloquy ; and I should probably have been 
more easily satisfied of the completeness of my understanding than 
I was of yours. 

In short it is part of the meaning of 'you understood it* that you 
could have done so and so and would have done it, if such and 
such, and the test of whether you understood it is a range of 
performances satisfying the apodoses of these general hypothetical 
statements. It should be noticed, on the one hand, that there is no 
single nuclear performance, overt or in your head, which would 
determine that you had understood the argument. Even if you claimed 
that you had experienced a flash of click of comprehension and had 
actually done so, you would still withdraw your other claim to have 
understood the argument, if you found that you could not para- 


phrase it, illustrate, expand or recast it; and you would allow 
someone else to have understood it who could meet all examination- 
questions about it, but reported no click of comprehension. It 
should also be noticed, on the other hand, that though there is no 
way of specifying how many or what sub-tests must be satisfied 
for a person to qualify as having perfectly understood the argument, 
this does not imply that no finite set of sub-tests is ever enough. 
To settle whether a boy can do long division, we do not require 
him to try out his hand on a million, a thousand, or even a hundred 
different problems in long division. We should not be quite satisfied 
after one success, but we should not remain dissatisfied after twenty, 
provided that they were judiciously variegated and that he had not 
done them before. A good teacher, who not only recorded the boy's 
correct and incorrect solutions, but also watched his procedure in 
reaching them, would be satisfied much sooner, and he would be 
satisfied sooner still if he got the boy to describe and justify the 
constituent operations that he performed, though of course many 
boys can do long division sums who cannot describe or justify the . 
operations performed in doing them. 

I discover my or your motives in much, though not quite the 
same way as I discover my or your abilities. The big practical 
difference is that I cannot put the subject through his paces in my 
inquiries into his inclinations as I can in my inquiries into his 
competences. To discover how conceited or patriotic you are, I 
must still observe your conduct, remarks, demeanour and tones of 
voice, but I cannot subject you to examination-tests or experiments 
which you recognise as such. You would have a special motive 
for responding to such experiments in a particular way. From mere 
conceit, perhaps, you would try to behave selC-effacingly, or from 
mere modesty you might try to behave conceitedly. None the less, 
ordinary day to day observation normally serves swiftly to settle 
such questions. To be conceited is to tend to boast of one's own 
excellences, to pity or ridicule the deficiencies of others, to day- 
dream about imaginary triumphs, to reminisce about actual 
triumphs, to weary quickly of conversations which reflect un- 
favourably upon oneself, to lavish one's society upon distinguished 
persons and to economise in association with the undistinguished. 
The tests of whether a person is conceited are the actions he takes 
and the reactions he manifests in such circumstances. Not many 


anecdotes, sneers or sycophancies are required from the subject for 
the ordinary observer to make up his mind, unless the candidate 
and the examiner happen to be identical. 

The ascertainment of a person's mental capacities and pro- 
pensities is an inductiveproccss, an induction to law-like propositions 
from observed actions and reactions. Having ascertained these 
long-term qualities, we explain a particular action or reaction by 
applying the result of such an induction to the new specimen, save 
where open avowals let us know the explanation without research. 
These inductions are not, of course, carried out under laboratory 
conditions, or with any statistical apparatus, any more than is the 
shepherd's weather-lore, or the general practitioner's understanding 
of a particular patient's constitution. But they are ordinarily reliable 
enough. It is a truism to say that the appreciations of character and 
the explanations of conduct given by critical, unprejudiced and 
humane observers, who have had a lot of experience and take a lot 
of interest, tend to be both swift and reliable; those of inferior 
judges tend to be slower and less reliable. Similarly the marks 
awarded by practised and keen examiners who know their subject 
well and are reasonably sympathetic towards the candidates tend to 
be about right; those of inferior examiners tend to scatter more 
widely from the proper order. The point of these truisms is to 
remind us that in real life we are quite familiar with the techniques 
of assessing persons and accounting for their actions, though accord- 
ing to the standard theory no such techniques could exist. 

There is one class of persons whose qualities and frames of mind 
are specially difficult to appreciate, namely persons who simulate 
qualities which they lack and dissimulate qualities which they 
possess. I refer to hypocrites and charlatans, the people who 
pretend to motives and moods and the people who pretend 
to abilities; that is, to most of us in some stretches of our 
lives and to some of us in most stretches of our lives. It is always 
possible to pretend to motives and abilities other than one's real 
ones, or to pretend to strengths of motives and levels of ability 
other than their real strengths and levels. The theatre could not 
exist, if it was not possible to make such pretences and to make 
them efficiently. It is, moreover,* always possible for a person to 
take others or himself in by acting a part (as the spectators are 
not taken in at the theatre, since they have paid to see people act 


who advertise themselves as actors). At first sight it seems, then, 
that no one can ever have proper knowledge of his own mind, or 
of the minds of others, since there is no kind of observable behaviour 
of which we can say, 'no one could possibly be putting that on*. 
Certainly we do not ordinarily feel practically embarrassed by this 
possibility, but some people feel a theoretical embarrassment, 
since if any particular action or reaction might be a piece of 
shamming, might not every action or reaction be a piece of sham- 
ming ? Might not all our appreciations of the conduct of others 
and of ourselves be uniformly deluded? People sometimes feel 
an analogous embarrassment about sense perception, for since 
there is nothing to prevent any particular sensible appearance from 
being an illusion, there seems to be nothing to prevent all of them 
from being illusions. 

However, the menace of universal shamming is an empty 
menace. We know what shamming is. It is deliberately behaving 
in ways in which other people behave who are not shamming. 
To simulate contrition is to put on gestures, accents, words and 
deeds like those of people who are contrite. Both the hypocrite 
and the people whom he deceives must therefore know what it is 
like for someone to be contrite and not merely to be pretending 
to be contrite. If we were not usually correct in sizing up contrite 
people as contrite, we could not be gulled into thinking that the 
hypocrite was really contrite. Furthermore, we know what it is 
like to be hypocritical, namely to try to appear actuated by 
a motive other than one's real motive. We know the sorts 
of tricks the hypocrite must use. We possess, though we cannot 
always apply, the criteria by which to judge whether these tricks 
are being used or not and whether they are being used cleverly or 
stupidly. So sometimes we can, and sometimes we cannot, detect 
hypocrisies; but even when we cannot, we know what sorts of 
extra clues, if we could secure them, would betray the hypocrite. 
We should, for example, like to see how he would act if told that 
the cause for which he professed devotion required half his fortune 
or his life. All that we need, though we often cannot get it, is an 
experimentum crucis, just as the doctor often needs but cannot get 
an experimentum crucis to decide between two diagnoses. To establish 
hypocrisy and charlatanry is an inductive task which differs from 
the ordinary inductive tasks of assessing motives and capacities only 


in being a second order induction. It is trying to discover 
whether someone is trying to model his actions on what he and 
we have inductively discovered to be the behaviour of people who 
are not shamming. When we and the hypocrite have learned how 
hypocrisy is exposed, we might have to cope with the second order 
hypocrite, the double-bluffer who has learnt how not to act like a 
first order hypocrite. There is no mystery about shamming, though 
it is a tautology to say that skilful shamming is hard to detect and 
that successful shamming is undetected. 

So far we have been considering chiefly those brands of self- 
knowledge and the knowledge of others which consist in the more 
or less judicial assessment of long-term propensities and capacities, 
together with the application of those assessments in explanations 
of particular episodes. We have been considering how we interpret 
or understand courses of conduct. But there remains another sense 
of 'know' in which a person is commonly said to know what he is 
at this moment doing, thinking, feeling, etc., a sense which is 
nearer to what the phosphorescence-theory of consciousness tried, 
but failed, to describe. To bring out the force of this sense of 'know', 
we should consider first certain kinds of situations in which a 
person admits that he did not know at the time what he was doing, 
although what he was doing was not an automatism but an 
intelligent operation. A person trying to solve a cross-word puzzle 
is confronted by an anagram; after a short or long pause he gets the 
answer, but denies that he was aware of taking any specifiable 
steps, or following any specifiable method, to get it. He may even 
say that he was thinking, and knew that he was thinking, about 
some other part of the puzzle. He is in some degree surprised to 
find that he has got the answer to the anagram, for he had not been 
aware of going through any shuffling and reshuffling operations, or 
considering any of the unsuccessful rearrangements of the letters. 
Yet his solution is correct and he may repeat his success several 
times in the course of solving the whole puzzle. Our impromptu 
witticisms often take us by surprise in the same sort of way. 

Now usually we are not surprised to catch ourselves having 
whistled, planned or imagined something and we say, if asked, that 
we are not surprised, because we knew we were doing these things, 
while we were doing them. What sort of a rider are we adding 
when we say 'I did so and so and knew at the time that I was doing 


it* ? The tempting reply is to say * Well, while I was doing the thing, 
it must have flashed or dawned upon me that I was doing it; or, 
if the action was a protracted one, it must have kept on flashing 
or dawning on me that I was doing the thing'. Yet these 
metaphors of flashing and dawning leave us uneasy, for we do not 
ordinarily recall any such occurrences, even when we are quite 
sure that we knew what we were doing, while we were doing it. 
Moreover, if there had occurred any such flashings or dawnings, 
the same question would arise once more. Did you know that you 
were getting these lightings-up, when they were on, and that you 
were not getting them, when they were not on? Did it flash 
on you that it was flashing on you that you were whistling ? Or is 
your knowing that something is going on not always a matter of 
something flashing on you? 

When a person is described as not being surprised when 
something takes place, he can also be described as having expected 
it or having been prepared for it. But we use 'expect' in at least two 
markedly different ways. Sometimes we mean that at a particular 
moment he considered and accepted the proposition that the event 
would, or would probably, take place; in this sense, there would be 
an answer to the question, 'Exactly when did you make this forecast?' 
But sometimes we mean that whether or not he ever went through 
the process of making such a forecast, he was continuously prepared 
or ready for the thing to happen. The gardener who, in this sense, 
expects rain need not be repeatedly switching his attention from 
gardening tasks to silent or vocal prognostications of rain; he just 
leaves the watering-can in the tool-shed, keeps his coat handy, 
beds out more seedlings, and so on. He anticipates the rain not by 
delivering occasional or incessant verbal presages, but by gardening 
appropriately. All the afternoon he is ready and making ready for 
rain. It may be objected, 'Oh, but he must be constantly considering 
the proposition that it will rain. That is what makes him keep his 
coat handy and the watering-pot in the shed.' But the answer to 
this is easy. 'Tell me at which particular moments he told himself 
or others that it was going to rain, and then tell me whether 
he was or was not expecting rain in the intervals between those 
prognostications.' He prognosticated rain at this, that and the other 
moment, because he was all the time expecting rain; and he kept 
his coat handy and the watering-can in the shed for the same reason. 


In this sense 'expect' is used to signify not an occurrence but a stand- 
ing condition or frame of mind. He is all the afternoon in the frame 
of mind to say certain things in the future tense in certain 
contingencies, as well as to conduct his gardening-operations in 
certain ways, to keep his coat handy and so on. To expect, in this 
sense, is to be prepared; and the giving of warnings, private or 
public, is only one sort of precautionary measure among others. 
So when we say that the gardener was not taken by surprise by 
the rain, or that he was sure that it was going to rain, or that he 
was ready for rain, we are not referring, save per actidens, to any 
internal flashes of foresight, or to any silent or vocal utterances in 
the future tense. All his afternoon activities, horticultural and verbal, 
were performed in a rain-expectant frame of mind. 

This lesson can be applied to our problem. There are many 
tasks in which we are from time to time engaged the execution of 
which requires continued application; doing the second step requires 
having done the first step. Sometimes the earlier steps stand to the 
later as means to ends, as we lay the table in order to have a meal. 
Sometimes the earlier steps stand in some other relation to the 
later; we do not eat the first course in order to eat the second, or 
begin to hum a tune in order to finish humming it. Very often an 
undertaking, though it requires consecutive application, is only 
artificially divisible into steps or stages, but it still remains significant 
to say that it might be broken off short, when only about half or 
about three-quarters accomplished. Now if the agent is carrying 
out such a serial operation with any degree of heed, he must at 
any given stage in it have in mind, in some sense, what is to be 
done next and what has already been done; he must have kept 
track of where he has got to and he must be expecting, or even 
intending, to be getting on to the stages after the present stage. 
This is sometimes expressed by saying that, in anyhow those serial 
undertakings that are more or less intelligently performed, the 
agent must have had from the start a plan or programme of what 
he is to do and he must continuously consult this plan as he 
progresses. And this does frequently happen. But it cannot always 
happen, and even when it does happen, this construction and 
consultation of programmes is nofrenough to explain the consecutive 
and methodical prosecution of the undertaking, since constructing 
and consulting plans are themselves serial operations intelligently 


and consecutively prosecuted, and it would be absurd to suggest 
that an infinite series of serial operations must precede the intelligent 
performance of any serial operation. Nor can intermittent consulta- 
tion of a plan explain how we know what to be getting on with 
between the consultations, how we know which items of the plan 
to consult at different stages in the task, or how we know that what 
we are now doing is in accordance with the recently consulted 

The prime sense in which a person engaged in a non-sudden 
task has it in mind what is to be done at later stages is that he is 
ready to perform step three when the occasion requires, namely 
when step two is completed; and, what goes with this, that he is 
ready to tell himself or the world what he would have gone on to do, 
if he had not been prevented. While engaged in any given step, he 
is prepared for what should or may follow, and when it does follow, 
he is not surprised. In this sense he may be alive to what he is doing 
all the time he is doing it, even though his attention is concentrated 
on his task and is not divided between the task and any con- 
templations or chroniclings of his prosecution of it. 

In other cases, as when he suddenly makes an unpremeditated 
witticism, he is surprised to find what he has done and would not 
describe himself as having known what he was doing, while he did 
it, or even as having been trying to make a joke. The same thing is 
true of other sudden acts performed on the spur of the moment. 
The action may well be the right action to have performed, but the 
agent does not know how he came to perform it, as he was 
unprepared for it. His being unprepared for it is not the effect 
or the cause of his not knowing what he was doing; it is the same 
thing, differently expressed. 

Unlike the man who with surprise catches himself making a 
good impromptu joke, the man who pursues a new argument is 
ordinarily alive to what he is doing. He may be surprised by the 
conclusion at which he arrives, but he is not surprised to find 
himself arriving at a conclusion. His progressive operation of 
reasoning was a display of his effort to reach one. So he knew 
what he was then doing, not in the sense that he had to dilute his 
consideration of his premisses with other acts of considering his 
consideration of them he need not have had any such side-issues 
flash or dawn upon him but in the sense that he was prepared not 



only for the steps in reasoning that he was to take, but also for a 
variety of other eventualities, most of which never occurred, such 
as being asked what he was doing, what justification he had for 
taking this rather than that line, and so forth. The phosphorescence- 
theory of consciousness was in part an attempt to construe concepts 
of frames of mind like 'prepared', 'ready*, 'on the qui vive , 
'bearing in mind', 'would not be surprised', 'expect', 'realise* and 
'alive to' as concepts of special internal happenings. 

The same sort of account holds good of not-forgetting. When 
a person engaged in conversation reaches the middle of a sentence, 
he has ordinarily not forgotten how his sentence began. In some 
sense he keeps continuous track of what he has already said. Yet it 
would be absurd to suggest that he accompanies every word that he 
utters with an internal repetition of all its predecessors. Apart 
from the physical impossibility of reciting the previous seventeen 
words in the moment when the eighteenth word is just giving place 
to the nineteenth, the process of repetition is itself a serial operation, 
the execution of the later parts of which would again require that 
its author had kept track of its earlier parts. Not-to-have-forgotten 
cannot be described in terms of the performance of actual 
reminiscences; on the contrary, reminiscences are only one kind of 
exercise of the condition of not-having-forgotten. Bearing in mind 
is not recalling; it is what makes recalling, among other things, 

Thus the intelligent conduct of serial operations does entail 
that the agent is throughout the progress of the operation au fait 
both with what he has completed and with what remains to do, 
but it does not entail that the performance of such operations is 
backed up by any second order performance or process of 
monitoring the first order performance. Of course an agent can, 
from time to time, if he is prompted to do so, announce to 
himself or the world "Hallo, here I am whistling 'Home Sweet 
Home'. " His ability to do so is part of what is meant by saying 
that he is in that particular frame of mind that we call 'being alive 
to what he is doing'. But not only is his actually making such an- 
nouncements not entailed by the fact that he is concentrating 
on whistling this tune, but his concentration would be broken each 
time he produced such a commentary. 

I have so far illustrated what I mean by a serial performance by 


such relatively brief operations as whistling a tune, or uttering a 
sentence. But in a slightly looser and more elastic sense, an entire 
conversation may be a serial performance ; and so may be the conduct 
of one's work and recreation during a day or a year. Eating porridge 
is a non-sudden performance, but so is eating breakfast; giving a 
lecture is a serial performance, but so is giving a course of 

Now in almost the same way as a person may be, in this sense, 
alive to what he is doing, he may be alive to what someone else is 
doing. In the serial operation of listening to a sentence or a lecture 
delivered by someone else, the listener, like the speaker, does not 
altogether forget, yet nor does he have constantly to recall the earlier 
parts of the talk, and he is in some degree prepared for the parts 
still to come, though he does not have to tell himself how he expects 
the sentence or lecture to go on. Certainly his frame of mind is 
considerably different from that of the speaker, since the speaker is, 
sometimes, creative or inventive, while the listener is passive and 
receptive; the listener may be frequently surprised to find the 
speaker saying something, while the speaker is only seldom 
surprised; the listener may find it hard to keep track of the course 
taken by the sentences and arguments, while the speaker can do 
this quite easily. While the speaker intends to say certain fairly 
specific things, his hearer can anticipate only roughly what sorts 
of topics are going to be discussed. 

But the differences are differences of degree, not of kind. The 
superiority of the speaker's knowledge of what he is doing over 
that of the listener does not indicate that he has Privileged Access 
to facts of a type inevitably inaccessible to the listener, but only 
that he is in a very good position to know what the listener is 
often in a very poor position to know. The turns taken by a man's 
conversation do not startle or perplex his wife as much as they had 
surprised and puzzled his fiancee, nor do close colleagues have to 
explain themselves to each other as much as they have to explain 
themselves to their new pupils. 

I have, for expository purposes, treated as separate things the 
way in which an ordinary person is ordinarily alive to what, at a 
particular moment, he is occupftd with and the ways in which 
judicially minded persons assess the characters and explain the actions 
of others and of themselves. There are undoubtedly many big 


differences. To appraise or examine requires special gifts, interests, 
training, experience, powers of comparison and generalisation, 'and 
impartiality; whereas merely to be alive to what one is whistling 
or where one is walking, is within the capacities of an ordinary 
child. None the less, the most naive knowledge of what one is 
doing shades into the most sophisticated appreciations of particular 
performances, much as the child's interest in the robins on the 
bird table shades into ornithology. A boy working out an arith- 
metical problem is alive in the most primitive way to what he 
is doing; for while he is thinking about numbers (and not about 
thinking about numbers), he does not forget the earlier stages of 
his reckoning, he bears in mind the rules of multiplication and he 
is not surprised to find himself arriving at the solution. But he 
differs only in degree of alertness, caution and sophistication from 
the boy who checks his results, from the boy who tries to find out 
where he has made a mistake, or from the boy who spots and explains 
the mistakes in the calculations of someone else; this last boy, again, 
differs only in degree from the co-operative parent, the professional 
teacher, or the examiner. The boy who is just capable of working 
out a simple sum is probably not yet able to state precisely what he 
is doing, or why he takes the steps that he takes; the examiner can 
evaluate the actual performances of the candidates in a fairly precise 
and highly formalised system of majrks. But here again the 
inarticulateness of the beginner's knowledge of what he is doing 
shades by a series of gradations into the examiner's numerical 
appraisal code. 

A person's knowledge about himself and others may be distri- 
buted between many roughly distinguishable grades yielding 
correspondingly numerous roughly distinguishable senses of 'know- 
ledge.' He may be aware that he is whistling 'Tipperary' and not 
know that he is whistling it in order to give the appearance of a 
sang-froid which he does not feel. Or, again, he may be aware that 
he is shamming sang-froid without knowing that the tremors 
which he is trying to hide derive from the agitation of a guilty 
conscience. He may know that he has an uneasy conscience and 
not know that this issues from some specific repression. But in none 
of the senses in which we ordinarily consider whether a person 
docs or does not know something about himself, is the postulate 
of a Privileged Access necessary or helpful for the explanation of 


how he has achieved, or might have achieved, this knowledge. There 
are respects in which it is easier for me to get such knowledge about 
myself than to get it about someone else; there are other respects 
in which it is harder. But these differences of facility do not derive 
from, or lead to, a difference in kind between a person's knowledge 
about himself and his knowledge about other people. No meta- 
physical Iron Curtain exists compelling us to be for ever absolute 
strangers to one another, though ordinary circumstances, together 
with some deliberate management, serve to maintain a reasonable 
aloofness. Similarly no metaphysical looking-glass exists compelling 
us to be for ever completely disclosed and explained to our- 
selves, though from the everyday conduct of our sociable and 
unsociable lives we learn to be reasonably conversant with ourselves. 

(5) Disclosure by Unstudied Talk. 

Our knowledge of other people and of ourselves depends upon 
our noticing how they and we behave. But there is one tract of 
human behaviour on which we pre-eminently rely. When the 
person examined has learned to talk and when he talks in a language 
well known to us, we use part of his talk as the primary source of 
our information about him, that part, namely, which is spontaneous, 
frank and unprepared. It is, of course, notorious that people are 
frequently reticent and keep things back, instead of letting them 
out. It is notorious, too, that people are frequently insincere and 
talk in manners calculated to give false impressions. But the very 
fact that utterances can be guarded and studied implies that 
unguarded, unstudied utterance is possible. To be reticent is 
deliberately to refrain from being open, and to be hypocritical is 
deliberately to refrain from saying what comes to one's lips, while 
pretending to say frankly things one does not mean. In a certain 
sense of 'natural', the natural thing to do is to speak one's mind, 
and the sophisticated thing to do is to refrain from doing this, or 
even to pretend to do this, when one is not really doing so. Further- 
more, not only is unstudied talk natural or unsophisticated, it is 
also the normal way of talking. We have to take special pains to 
keep things back, only because letting them out is our normal 
response; and we discover the techniques of insincerity only from 
familiarity with the modes of unforced conversation that are to be 
simulated. To say this is not to accord ethical laurels to human 


nature. Unstudied utterance is not honesty or candour. Honesty 
is a highly sophisticated disposition, for it is the disposition to 
abstain from insincerity, just as candour is the disposition to abstain 
from reticence. A person could not be honest or candid who had 
never known insincerity or reticence, any more than a person 
could be insincere or reticent who had never known ingenuous and 
open utterance. 

There are other kinds of studied utterance, some of which will 
have to be discussed at a later stage, that belong not to normal 
sociable conversations but only to more serious affairs. The physician, 
the judge, the preacher, the politician, the astronomer and the 
geometrician may give their counsels, verdicts, homilies, theories 
and formulae by word of mouth, but they are then talking not in 
the sense of 'chatting' but in the sense of 'pronouncing' or 'pro- 
pounding'. Perhaps they prepare, but at least they weigh, their 
words. They do not say the first things that come to their lips, for 
their discourse is disciplined. What they say would, unlike spon- 
taneous chat, generally tolerate being written down and even 
printed. It is not impromptu or spontaneous, let fall or blurted out, 
but delivered. Their authors are considering what to say and how 
to say it, in order to produce precisely the right effect. This sort of 
talk is literally prosy. 

We need to contrast normal unstudied talk both with studied 
conversational talk and with studied non-conversational talk, for 
it is the basis of both of them. We use unstudied, conversational 
talk not only before we learn to converse guardedly and insincerely 
and before we learn to discourse weightily; we also continue to 
occupy a good part of our talking day in saying the first things that 
come to our lips. Camouflage and gravity are only intermittent 

It is not only in our unembarrassed, uncalculated colloquies 
with others that we say the first things that come to our lips; we 
do so also in the easy, unbuttoned colloquies that we hold, com- 
monly in silence, with ourselves. 

In unstudied chat we talk about whatever we are at the moment 
chiefly interested in. It is not a rival interest. We talk about the 
garden from the motive that prompts us to inspect and potter in the 
garden, namely interest in the garden. We chat about our dinner 
not because we are not interested in our dinner, but because we 


are. We may talk about our dinner because we are hungry, just as 
we eat it because we are hungry; and we cannot easily help talking 
about the steepness of the hill, for the same reason that we cannot 
easily help our steps flagging as we climb it. Spontaneous utterance 
is not a collateral, competing interest, it is an exercise auxiliary to 
the taking of any interest in anything whatsoever. 

A person who is annoyed with a knotted shoe-lace is, if he has 
learned to talk, also in the mood to use a verbal expression of 
annoyance with it. He talks about it in a fretful tone of voice. 
What he says, together with his way of saying it, discloses or lets 
us know his frame of mind, just because his unstudied using of that 
expression is one of the things that he is in the frame of mind to do. 
To tug fretfully at the shoe-lace might be another. He is sufficiently 
aggravated by the knot to talk aggravatedly about it. 

Unstudied utterances are not, on the one hand, effects of the 
frames of mind in which they are used, since frames of mind arc not 
incidents; but nor, on the other hand, are they reports about those 
frames of mind. If the lorry-driver asks urgently, * Which is the road 
to London?' he discloses his anxiety to find out, but he does not 
make an autobiographical or psychological pronouncement about 
it. He says what he says not from a desire to inform us or himself 
about himself, but from a desire to get on to the right road to London. 
Unstudied utterances are not self-comments, though, as we shall 
shortly see, they constitute our primary evidence for making 
self-comments, when we come to be interested in making 

Now many unstudied utterances embody explicit interest 
phrases, or what I have elsewhere been calling 'avowals', like 'I 
want', 'I hope', 'I intend', 'I dislike', *I am depressed', 'I wonder', 
'I guess' and 'I feel hungry' ; and their grammar makes it tempting 
to misconstrue all the sentences in which they occur as self-descrip- 
tions. But in its primary employment 'I want . . .' is not used to 
convey information, but to make a request or demand. It is no 
more meant as a contribution to general knowledge than 'please'. 
To respond with 'do you?' or 'how do you know?' would be 
glaringly inappropriate. Nor, in their primary employment, are 
'I hate . . / and 'I intend . . .' u?ed for the purpose of telling the 
hearer facts about the speaker; or else we should not be surprised to 
hear them uttered in the cool, informative tones of voice in which 


we say 'he hates . . / and 'they intend. . . .' We expect them, on 
the contrary, to be spoken in a revolted and a resolute tone of voice 
respectively. They are the utterances of persons in revolted and 
resolute frames of mind. They are tilings said in detestation and 
resolution and not things said in order to advance biographical 
knowledge about detestations and resolutions. 

A person who notices the unstudied utterances of a speaker, 
who may or may not be himself, is, if his interest in the speaker has 
the appropriate direction and if he knows the language in which 
the utterances are made, especially well situated to pass comments 
upon the qualities and frames of mind of their author. While 
careful observation of the subject's other behaviour, such as his 
other overt actions, his hesitations and his tears and laughter, may 
tell him much, this behaviour is not ex cfficio made easy to witness, 
or easy to interpret. But speech is ex offitio made to be heard and 
made to be construed. Learning to talk is learning to make oneself 
understood. No sleuth-like powers are required for me to find out 
from the words and tones of voice of your unstudied talk, or even 
of my own unstudied talk, the frame of mind of the talker. 

When talk is guarded and often we do not know whether it 
is so or not, even in the avowals we make to ourselves sleuth-like 
qualities do have to be exercised. We now have to infer from what is 
said and done to what would have been said, if wariness had not 
been exercised, as well as to the motives of the wariness. Finding 
out what is on the pages of an open book is a matter of simple 
reading; finding out what is on the pages of a sealed book requires 
hypotheses and evidence. But the fact that concealments have to be 
penetrated does not imply that non-concealments have to be 

One of the tilings often signified by 'self-consciousness* is the 
notice we take of our own unstudied utterances, including our 
explicit avowals, whether these are spoken aloud, muttered or said 
in our heads. We eavesdrop on our own voiced utterances 
and our own silent monologues. In noticing these we are pre- 
paring ourselves to do something new, namely to describe the 
frames of mind which these utterances disclose. But there is nothing 
intrinsically proprietary about this activity. I can pay heed to what 
I overhear you saying as well as to what I overhear myself saying, 
though I cannot overhear your silent colloquies with yourself. 


Nor can I read your diary, if you write it in cipher, or keep it under 
lock and key. Indeed, not only is this sort of self-study the same in 
kind as the study of the unguarded and later also the guarded 
utterances of others, but we learn to make this study of our own 
talk from first taking part in the public discussion of anyone's 
talk as well as from reading novelists' illustrative deployment of 
their characters' talk, together with their explanatory descriptions 
of it. 

Critical readers may ask why I have refrained from using the 
verb 'to think' instead of such trivial verbs as 'talk', 'chat', 'converse' 
and 'let out', since clearly the utterances which I have been mentioning 
are, ordinarily, pertinent utterances, the authors of which mean what 
they say; I have been mentioning significant and intelligible speech 
and not things like guffaws, babblings or rigmarole. My reasons are 
two, and are closely connected. First, the utterances I have 
been considering belong to sociable interchanges of conversation 
between speakers and hearers, who may be one and the same 
persons. Their point is a conversational point. Since many of the 
utterances that constitute a conversation are not in the indicative 
mood, but are questions, commands, complaints, quips, scoldings, 
congratulations, etc., we cannot in their case speak of those 
epistemological darlings the 'thoughts', judgments' or 'propositions' 
expressed by them. Secondly, we tend to reserve the verb 'to think' 
for the uses of those studied and severely drilled utterances which 
constitute theories and policies. Now we learn to chat in the 
nursery, but we have to go to school to learn even the rudiments of 
theorising. The techniques of theorising are learned in set lessons, 
while conversational speech is acquired almost entirely by con- 
versing. So the use of sentences, and particularly of certain sorts 
of indicative sentences, for the special ends of propounding, i.e. 
providing premisses and delivering conclusions, is a belated and 
sophisticated use, and necessarily comes later than the conversational 
uses of sentences and phrases. When a theory or a bit of a theory 
is voiced aloud, instead of being conveyed in its proper milieu 
of print, we hesitate to call the voicing by the name of 'talk' and 
we should flatly refuse to call it 'chat' or 'conversation'. It is meant 
didactically, not sociably. It is a kind of work, whereas 
unstudied chat is no kind of work, not even easy or agreeable 


(6) The Self. 

Not only theorists but also quite unsophisticated people, 
including young children, find perplexities in the notion of T. 
Children sometimes puzzle their heads with such questions as, 
'What would it be like if I became you and you became me?' and 
'Where was I before I began?' Theologians have been exercised 
over the question 'What is it in an individual which is saved or 
damned?', and philosophers have speculated whether 'I' denotes a 
peculiar and separate substance and in what consists my indivisible 
and continuing identity. Not all such puzzles arise from the 
unwitting adoption of the para-mechanical hypothesis, and I 
propose in this section to try to do justice to one particular family 
of such enigmas, the expounding and solving of which may be of 
some general theoretical interest. 

The enigmas that I have in mind all turn on what I shall call 
the 'systematic elusiveness' of the concept of T. When a child, 
like Kim, having no theoretical commitments or equipment, first 
asks himself, 'Who or What am I?' he does not ask it from a desire 
to know his own surname, age, sex, nationality or position in the 
form. He knows all his ordinary personalia. He feels that there is 
something else in the background for which his T stands, a some- 
thing which has still to be described after all his ordinary 
personalia have been listed. He also feels, very vaguely, that 
whatever it is that his T stands for, it is something very 
important and quite unique, unique in the sense that neither it, nor 
anything like it, belongs to anyone else. There could only be one of 
it. Pronouns like 'you', 'she' and 'we' feel quite unmystifying, while 
T feels mystifying. And it feels mystifying, anyhow in part, 
because the more the child tries to put his finger on what T stands 
for, the less does he succeed in doing so. He can catch only its 
coat-tails; it itself is always and obdurately a pace ahead of its coat- 
tails. Like the shadow of one's own head, it will not wait to be 
jumped on. And yet it is never very far ahead; indeed, sometimes 
it seems not to be ahead of the pursuer at all. It evades 
capture by lodging itself inside the very muscles of the pursuer. It 
is too near even to be within arm's reach. 

Theorists have found themseles mocked in a similar way by 
the concept of T. Even Hume confesses that, when he has tried to 
sketch all the items of his experience, he has found nothing there 


to answer to the word T, and yet he is not satisfied that there does 
not remain something more and something important, without 
which his sketch fails to describe his experience. 

Other epistemologists have felt similar qualms. Should I, or 
should I not, put my knowing self down on my list of the sorts 
of things that I can have knowledge of? If I say 'no', it seems to 
reduce my knowing self to a theoretically infertile mystery, yet 
if I say 'yes', it seems to reduce the fishing-net to one of the fishes 
which it itself catches. It seems hazardous either to allow or to 
deny that the judge can be put into the dock. 

I shall try before long to explain this systematic elusiveness of 
the notion of T and with it the apparent non-parallelism between 
the notion of T and the notions of 'you' and 'he'. But it is expedient 
first to consider some points which hold good of all personal 
pronouns alike. 

People, including philosophers, tend to raise their questions 
about what constitutes a self by asking what the words 'I' and 'you' 
are the names of. They are familiar with the river of which 'Thames' 
is the name and with the dog called 'Fido'. They are also familiar 
with the persons of whom their acquaintances' and their own 
surnames are the surnames. They then feel vaguely that since T 
and 'you' are not public surnames, they must be names of another 
and queer sort and must in consequence be the names of some 
extra individuals hidden away behind or inside the persons who are 
known abroad by their ordinary surnames and Christian names As 
pronouns are not registered at Somerset House, their owners must 
be different, somehow, from the owners of the Christian and 
surnames which are registered there. But this way of broaching the 
question is mistaken from the start. Certainly T and 'you' are not 
regular proper names like 'Fido' and 'Thames', but they are not 
irregular proper names either. They are not proper names, or names 
at all, any more than 'today' is an ephemeral name of the current 
day. Gratuitous mystification begins from the moment that we 
start to peer around for the beings named by our pronouns. 
Sentences containing pronouns do, of course, mention identifiable 
people, but the way in which the people mentioned are identified 
by pronouns is quite different from the way in which they are 
identified by proper names. 

This difference can be provisionally indicated in the following 


manner. There is a class of words (which for ease of reference may 
be called 'index words') that indicate to the hearer or reader the 
particular thing, episode, person, place or moment referred to. Thus 
'now' is an index word which indicates to the hearer of the sentence 
'the train is now going over the bridge' the particular moment of the 
crossing. The word 'now' can, of course, be used at any moment of any 
day or night, but it does not mean what is meant by 'at any moment 
of any day or night'. It indicates that particular moment at which the 
hearer is intended to hear the word 'now' being uttered. The 
moment at which the train crosses the bridge is indicated by the 
utterance at that moment of the word 'now'. The moment at which 
'now' is breathed is the moment which it indicates. In a partly 
similar way the word 'that' is often used to indicate the particular 
thing at which the speaker's index finger is pointing at the moment 
when he breathes out the word 'that'. 'Here' indicates, sometimes, 
that particular place from which the speaker propagates the noise 
'here' into the surrounding air; and the page indicated by the 
phrase 'this page' is the page of which the printed word 'this' 
occupies a part. Other index words indicate indirectly. 'Yesterday' 
indicates the day before that on which it is uttered, or printed in a 
newspaper; 'then', in certain uses, indicates a moment or period 
standing in a specified relation with that in which it is heard 
or read. 

Now pronouns like 'I' and 'you' are, anyhow sometimes, direct 
index words, while others, like 'he' and 'they' and, in some uses, 
'we' are indirect index words. T can indicate the particular person 
from whom the noise T, or the written mark T, issues; 'you' can 
indicate the one person who hears me say 'you', or it can indicate 
that person, whoever he is (and there may be several) who reads the 
'you' that I write, or have printed. In all cases the physical occurrence 
of an index word is bodily annexed to what the word indicates. 
Hence 'you' is not a queer name that I and others sometimes give 
you; it is an index word which, in its particular conversational 
setting, indicates to you just who it is to whom I am addressing 
my remarks. T is not an extra name for an extra being; it indicates, 
when I say or write it, the same individual who can also be addressed 
by the proper name 'Gilbert Rylc'. 'I' is not an alias for 'Gilbert 
Ryle'; it indicates the person whom 'Gilbert Ryle' names, when 
Gilbert Ryle uses 'I'. 


But this is far from being the whole story. We have now to 
notice that we use our pronouns, as well as our proper names, in a 
wide variety of different ways. Further mystifications have arisen 
from the detection, without the comprehension of contrasts between 
such different uses of T and, to a lesser extent, of 'you' and 'he'. 

In the sentence 'I am warming myself before the fire', the word 
'myself could be replaced by 'my body' without spoiling the sense; 
but the pronoun T could not be replaced by 'my body' without 
making nonsense. Similarly the sentence 'Cremate me after I am 
gone' says nothing self-annihilating, since the 'me' and the 'I' are 
being used in different senses. So sometimes we can, and sometimes 
we cannot, paraphrase the first personal pronoun by 'my body'. 
There are even some cases where I can talk about a part of my body, 
but cannot use 'I' or 'me' for it. If my hair were scorched in a fire, 
I could say 'I was not scorched; only my hair was', though I could 
never say 'I was not scorched; only my face and hands were'. A 
part of the body which is insensitive and cannot be moved at will 
is mine, but it is not part of me. Conversely, mechanical auxiliaries 
to the body, such as motor-cars and walking-sticks, can be spoken of 
with T and 'me; as in 'I collided with the pillar-box', which means 
the same thing as 'the car which I was driving (or which I owned 
and was having driven for me in my presence) collided with the 

Let us now consider some contexts in which 'I' and 'me' can 
certainly not be replaced by 'my body' or 'my leg'. If I say 'I am 
annoyed that I was cut in the collision', while I might accept the 
substitution of 'my leg was cut' for 'I was cut', I should not 
allow 'I am annoyed' to be reconstructed in any such way. It would 
be similarly absurd to speak of 'my head remembering', 'my brain 
doing long division', or 'my body battling with fatigue'. Perhaps it 
is because of the absurdity of such collocations that so many 
people have felt driven to describe a person as an association between 
a body and a non-body. 

However, we are not yet at the end of our list of elasticities in 
the uses of T and 'me' ; for we find further contrasts breaking out 
between uses of the first personal pronoun in which none can be 
paraphrased by mere references to the body. It makes perfect sense 
to say that I caught myself just beginning to dream, but not that I 
caught my body beginning to dream, or that my body caught me 


doing so; and it makes sense to say that a child is telling himself a 
fairy-story, but nonsense to make his body either narrator or 

Contrasts of these types, perhaps above all the contrasts 
advertised in descriptions of exercises of self-control, have induced 
many preachers and some thinkers to speak as if an ordinary person 
is really some sort of committee or team of persons, all laced 
together inside one skin; as if the thinking and vetoing T were one 
person, and the greedy or lazy 'I' were another. But this sort of 
picture is obviously of no use. Part of what we mean by 'person* 
is someone who is capable of catching himself beginning to dream, 
of telling himself stories and of curbing his own greed. So the 
suggested reduction of a person to a team of persons would merely 
multiply the number of persons without explaining how it is that 
one and the same person can be both narrator and auditor, or both 
vigilant and dreamy, both scorched and amazed at being scorched. 
The beginning of the required explanation is that in such a 
statement as 'I caught myself beginning to dream', the two 
pronouns are not names of different persons, since they arc not 
names at all, but that they are index words being used in different 
senses in different sorts of context, just as we saw was the case with 
the statement 'I am warming myself by the fire' (though this is a 
different difference of sense from the other). In case it seems 
implausible to say that inside one sentence the twice used first 
personal pronoun can both indicate the same person and also 
have two different senses, it is enough for the moment to point out 
that the same thing can happen even with ordinary proper names 
and personal titles. The sentence 'after her wedding Miss Jones 
will no longer be Miss Jones' does not say that the particular woman 
will cease to be herself, or cease to be the sort of person she now is, 
but only that she will have changed her name and status; and the 
sentence 'after Napoleon returned to France, he was Napoleon no 
longer' might mean only that his qualities of generalship had 
altered, and is obviously analogous to the familiar expression 'I am 
not myself. The statements 'I was just beginning to dream' and 'I 
caught myself just beginning to dream' are statements of logically 
different types, and it follows fram their being of different types 
that the pronoun 1' is being used with a different logical force in 
the two sentences. 


In considering specifically human behaviour behaviour, that is, 
which is unachieved by animals, infants and idiots we should for 
several reasons notice the fact that some sorts of actions are in 
one way or another concerned with, or are operations upon, other 
actions. When one person retaliates upon another, scoffs at him, 
replies to him or plays hide-and-seek with him, his actions have to 
do, in one way or another, with certain actions on the part of the 
other; in a sense to be specified later, the performance of the 
former involves the thought of the latter. An action on the part 
of one agent could not be one of spying or applauding, unless it 
had to do with the actions of another agent; nor could I behave as 
a customer, unless you or someone else behaved as a seller. One 
man must give evidence if another is to cross-examine him; some 
people must be on the stage, if others are to be dramatic critics. 
It will sometimes be convenient to use the title 'higher order 
actions' to denote those the descriptions of which involve the 
oblique mention of other actions. 

Some, but not all, higher order actions influence the agent dealt 
with. If I merely comment on your actions behind your back, 
my comment has to do with your actions in the sense that my 
performance of my act involves the thought of your performance 
of yours; but it does not modify your actions. This is especially 
clear where the commentator or critic is operating after the death 
of the agent on whose doings he passes his judgments. The historian 
cannot change Napoleon's conduct of the battle of Waterloo. On 
the other hand, the moment and the methods of my attacking do 
affect the timing and the techniques of your defence, and what I 
sell has a lot to do with what you buy. 

Next, when I speak of the actions of one agent having to do 
with those of another, I do not exclude those actions which are 
performed under the mistaken impression that the other is doing 
something which he is not really doing. The child who applauds 
my skill in pretending to be asleep, though I have in fact really 
fallen asleep, is doing something which, in the required sense, 
presupposes that I am pretending ; and Robinson Crusoe really is 
having conversationally to do with his parrot, if he believes, or half 
believes, that the bird follows what he says, even if this belief is 

Finally, there are many kinds of dealings which are concerned 


with subsequent, or even merely possible, or probable, actions. When 
I bribe you to vote for me, your voting has not yet taken place and 
may never take place. A reference to your vote enters into the 
description of my bribe, but the reference must be of the pattern 
'that you shall vote for me', and not of the pattern 'because you 
did vote', or 'because I thought that you did vote for me'. In the 
same way my talking to you presupposes only in this way your 
understanding and agreeing with me, namely that I talk in order 
that you may understand and agree with me. 

So when John Doe counters, detects, reports, parodies, exploits, 
applauds, mocks, abets, copies or interprets something done by 
Richard Roe, any description of his action would have to embody 
an oblique mention of the tiling done, or supposed to be done, by 
Richard Roe ; whereas no such description of John Doe's behaviour 
would have to enter into the description of that of Richard Roe. 
To talk about John Doe's detection or mockery would involve, 
but not be involved in, talking about what he had been detecting 
or mocking, and this is what is meant by saying that John Doe's 
action is of a higher order than that of Richard Roe. By 'higher' 
I do not mean 'loftier'. Blackmailing a deserter is of a higher order 
than his desertion, and advertising is of a higher order than selling. 
Recollecting the doing of a kindness is not nobler than the doing of 
it, but it is of a higher order. 

It may be hygienic to remember that though the actions 
of reporting or commenting on the actions of others behind 
their backs is one species of higher order action, it has no special 
priority over the other ways of dealing with these actions. Keeping 
an academic tally of what Richard Roe does is only one way in 
which John Doc takes steps about Richard Roe's steps. The 
construction and public or private use of sentences in the indicative 
is not, as intellectualists love to think, either John Doe's indispensable 
first move or his Utopian last move. But this point requires us to 
consider the sense in which performing a higher order action 
'involves the thought of ' the corresponding lower order action. 
It does not mean that if, for example, I am to mimic your gestures, 
I must do two things, namely both verbally describe your gestures 
to myself and produce gestures cohiplying with the terms employed 
in that description. Telling myself about your gestures would in 
itself be a higher order performance, and one which would equally 


involve the thought of your gestures. The phrase 'involve the 
thought of 'does not signify a causal transaction, or the concomitance 
of a process of one sort with a process of another sort. As 
commenting on your gestures, to be commenting, must itself be 
thinking in a certain way of your gestures, so mimicking them, to 
be mimicry and not mere replica, must itself be thinking in a 
certain way of your gestures. But of course this is a strained sense of 
'thinking' ; it does not denote any sort of pondering or entail the 
enunciation of any propositions. It means that I must know what I 
am doing and, since what I am doing is mimicking, I must know 
the gestures you made and be using that knowledge, using it in 
the mimicking way and not in the reporting or commenting way. 

Higher order actions are not instinctive. Any one of them can 
be done efficiently or inefficiently, appropriately or inappropriately, 
intelligently or stupidly. Children have to learn how to perform 
them. They have to learn how to resist, parry and retaliate, how to 
forestall, give way and co-operate, how to exchange and haggle, 
reward and punish. They have to learn to make jokes against ochers 
and to see some jokes against themselves, to obey orders and give 
them, make requests and grant them, receive marks and award them. 
They have to learn to compose and follow reports, descriptions 
and commentaries; to understand and to give criticisms, to accept, 
reject, correct and compose verdicts, catechise and be catechised. 
Not least (and also not soonest) they have to learn to keep to them- 
selves things which they are inclined to divulge. Reticence is of a 
higher order than unreticencc. 

My object in drawing attention to these truisms of the playroom 
and the schoolroom can now be seen. At a certain stage the child 
discovers the trick of directing higher order acts upon his own 
lower order acts. Having been separately victim and author of 
jokes, coercions, catechisms, criticisms and mimicries in the 
inter-personal dealings between others and himself, he finds out 
how to play both roles at once. He has listened to stories before, 
and he has told stories before, but now he tells stories to his own 
enthralled ear. He has been detected in insincerities and he has 
detected the insincerities of others, but now he applies the 
techniques of detection to his oVn insincerities. He finds that he 
can give orders to himself with such authority that he sometimes 
obeys them, even when reluctant to do so. Self-suasion and self- 



dissuasion become more or less effective. He learns in adolescence 
to apply to his own behaviour most of those higher order 
methods of dealing with the young that are regularly practised 
by adults. He is then said to be growing up. 

Moreover, just as he had earlier acquired not only the ability, 
but also the inclination to direct higher order acts upon the acts 
of others, so he now becomes prone, as well as competent, to do the 
same upon his own behaviour; and just as he had earlier learned to 
cope not only with the particular performances of others, but also 
with their dispositions to conduct such performances, so he now 
becomes in some degree both able and ready to take steps, theoretical 
and practical, about his own habits, motives and abilities. Nor are 
his own higher order performances, or his dispositions to perform 
them, in any way exempted from just the same treatment. For any 
performance of any order, it is always possible that there should be 
performed a variety of higher order actions about it. If I ridicule 
something done by you, or by myself, I can, but usually do not 
go on to pass a verbal comment on my amusement, apologise 
for it, or let others into the joke; and then I can go on to applaud 
or reproach myself for doing so, and make a note in my diary that 
I have done this. 

It will be seen that what is here under discussion covers much of 
both what is ordinarily called 'self-consciousness' and what is 
ordinarily called 'self-control', though it covers much more than 
them. A person can, indeed, and must act sometimes as reporter 
upon his own doings and sometimes as prefect regulating his own 
conduct, but these higher order self-dealings are only two out of 
innumerable brands, just as the corresponding inter-personal dealings 
arc only two out of innumerable brands. 

Nor must it be supposed that the reports which a person makes 
to himself upon his own doings, or the regimes which he imposes 
upon his own conduct are inevitably free from bias or carelessness. 
My reports on myself are subject to the same kinds of defects as 
are my reports on you, and the admonitions, corrections and 
injunctions which I impose on myself may show me to be as 
ineffectual or ill-advised as does my disciplining of others. 
Self-consciousness, if the word is to be used at all, must not 
be described on the hallowed para-optical model, as a torch 
that illuminates itself by beams of its own light reflected from 


a mirror in its own insides. On the contrary it is simply a 
special case of an ordinary more or less efficient handling of a less 
or more honest and intelligent witness. Similarly, self-control is 
not to be likened to the management of a partially disciplined 
subordinate by a superior of perfect wisdom and authority; it is 
simply a special case of the management of an ordinary person by 
an ordinary person, namely where John Doe, say, is taking both 
parts. The truth is not that there occur some higher order acts 
which are above criticism, but that any higher order act that occurs 
can itself be criticised; not that something unimprovable does take 
place, but that nothing takes place which is not improvable; not 
that any operation is of the highest order, but that for any operation 
of any order there can be operations of a higher order. 

(7) The Systematic Elusiveness of I'. 

We are now in a position to account for the systematic elusiveness 
of the notion of T, and the partial non-parallelism between it and 

the notion of Vou' or 'he'. To concern oneself about oneself in 


any way, theoretical or practical, is to perform a higher order act, 
just as it is to concern oneself about anybody else. To try, for 
example, to describe what one has just done, or is now doing, is to 
comment upon a step which is not itself, save per accidens, one of 
commenting. But the operation which is the commenting is not, 
and cannot be, the step on which that commentary is being made. 
Nor can an act of ridiculing be its own butt. A higher order action 
cannot be the action upon which it is performed. So my commentary 
on my performances must always be silent about one performance, 
namely itself, and this performance can be the target only of another 
commentary. Self-commentary, self-ridicule and self-admonition are 
logically condemned to eternal penultimacy. Yet nothing that is left 
out of any particular commentary or admonition is privileged 
thereby to escape comment or admonition for ever. On the contrary 
it may be the target of the very next comment or rebuke. 

The point may be illustrated in this way. A singing-master 
might criticise the accents or notes of a pupil by mimicking with 
exaggerations each word that the pupil sang; and if the pupil sang 
slowly enough, the master coulxl parody each word sung by the 
pupil before the next came to be uttered. But then, in a mood of 
humility, the singing-master tries to criticise his own singing in the 


same way, and more than that to mimic with exaggerations each 
word that he utters, including those that he utters in self-parody. 
It is at once clear, first, that he can never get beyond the very earliest 
word of his song and, second, that at any given moment he has 
uttered one noise which has yet to be mimicked and it makes no 
difference how rapidly he chases his notes with mimicries of them. 
He can, in principle, never catch more than the coat-tails of the 
object of his pursuit, since a word cannot be a parody of itself. None 
the less, there is no word that he sings which remains unparodied; 
he is always a day late for the fair, but every day he reaches the place 
of yesterday's fair. He never succeeds in jumping on to the shadow 
of his own head, yet he is never more than one jump behind. 

An ordinary reviewer may review a book, while a second order 
reviewer criticises reviews of the book. But the second order 
review is not a criticism of itself. It can only be criticised in a 
further third order review. Given complete editorial patience, any 
review of any order could be published, though at no stage would 
all the reviews have received critical notices. Nor can every act 
of a diarist be the topic of a record in his diary; for the last entry 
made in his diary still demands that the making of it should in its 
turn be chronicled. 

This, I think, explains the feeling that my last year's self, or my 
yesterday's self, could in principle be exhaustively described and 
accounted for, and that your past or present self could be exhaustively 
described and accounted for by me, but that my today's self 
perpetually slips out of any hold of it that I try to take. It also 
explains the apparent non-parallelism between the notion of T 
and that of 'you', without construing the elusive residuum as any 
kind of ultimate mystery. 

There is another thing which it explains. When people consider 
the problems of the Freedom of the Will and try to imagine their 
own careers as analogous to those of clocks or water-courses, they 
tend to boggle at the idea that their own immediate future is already 
unalterably fixed and predictable. It seems absurd to suppose that 
what I am just about to think, feel or do is already preappointed, 
though people are apt to find no such absurdity in the supposition 
that the futures of other people af e so preappointed. The so-called 
'feeling of spontaneity* is closely connected with this inability to 
imagine that what I am going to think or do can already be 


anticipated. On the other hand, when I consider what I thought 
and did yesterday, there seems to be no absurdity in supposing that 
that could have been forecast, before I did it. It is only while I am 
actually trying to predict my own next move that the task feels 
like that of a swimmer trying to overtake the waves that he sends 
ahead of himself. 

The solution is as before. A prediction of a deed or a thought 
is a higher order operation, the performance of which cannot be 
among the things considered in making the prediction. Yet as the 
state of mind in which I am just before I do something may make 
some difference to what I do, it follows that I must overlook at least 
one of the data relevant to my prediction. Similarly, I can give you 
the fullest possible advice what to do, but I must omit one piece of 
counsel, since I cannot in the same breath advise you how to take 
that advice. There is therefore no paradox in saying that while 
normally I am not at all surprised to find myself doing or thinking 
what I do, yet when I try most carefully to anticipate what I shall 
do or think, then the outcome is likely to falsify my expectation. 
My process of pre-envisaging may divert the course of my ensuing 
behaviour in a direction and degree of which my prognosis cannot 
take account. One thing that I cannot prepare myself for is the 
next thought that I am going to think. 

The fact that my immediate future is in this way systematically 
elusive to me has, of course, no tendency to prove that my career is 
in principle unpredictable to prophets other than myself, or even 
that it is inexplicable to myself after the heat of the action. I can 
point to any other thing with my index-finger, and other people 
can point at this finger. But it cannot be the object at which it itself is 
pointing. Nor can a missile be its own target, though anything else 
may be thrown at it. 

This general conclusion that any performance can be the concern 
of a higher order performance, but cannot be the concern of itself, 
is connected with what was said earlier about the special functioning 
of index words, such as 'now', 'you' and 'I*. An T sentence 
indicates whom in particular it is about by being itself uttered or 
written by someone in particular. T indicates the person who 
utters it. So, when a person utteis an T sentence, his utterance of it 
may be part of a higher order performance, namely one, perhaps of 
self-reporting, self-exhortation or self-commiseration, and this 


performance itself is not dealt with in the operation which it itself 
is. Even if the person is, for special speculative purposes, momen- 
tarily concentrating on the Problem of the Self, he has failed and 
knows that he has failed to catch more than the flying coat-tails of 
that which he was pursuing. His quarry was the hunter. 

To conclude, there is nothing mysterious or occult about the 
range of higher order acts and attitudes, which are apt to be 
inadequately covered by the umbrella-title 'self-consciousness'. 
They are the same in kind as the higher order acts and attitudes 
exhibited in the dealings of people with one other. Indeed the 
former are only a special application of the latter and are learned 
first from them. If I perform the third order operation of com- 
menting on a second order act of laughing at myself for a piece of 
manual awkwardness, I shall indeed use the first personal pronoun 
in two different ways. I say to myself, or to the company, 'I was 
laughing at myself for being butter-fingered'. But so far from this 
showing that there are two 'Mes' in my skin, not to speak, yet, of 
the third one which is still commenting on them, it shows only 
that I am applying the public two-pronoun idiom in which we talk 
of her laughing at him; and I am applying this linguistic idiom, 
because I am applying the method of inter-personal transaction 
which the idiom is ordinarily employed to describe. 

Before concluding this chapter, it is worth mentioning that 
there is one influential difference between the first personal 
pronoun and all the rest. T, in my use of it, always indicates me 
and only indicates me. 'You', 'she' and 'they' indicate different 
people at different times. 'I' is like my own shadow; I can never 
get away from it, as I can get away from your shadow. There is no 
mystery about this constancy, but I mention it because it seems 
to endow T with a mystifying uniqueness and adhesiveness. 
'Now' has something of the same besetting feeling. 



(i) Foreword. 

ONE of the central negative motives of this book is to show that 
'mental' does not denote a status, such that one can sensibly ask 
of a given thing or event whether it is mental or physical, 'in the 
mind' or 'in the outside world'. To talk of a person's mind is not 
to talk of a repository which is permitted to house objects that 
something called 'the physical world' is forbidden to house; it is 
to talk of the person's abilities, liabilities and inclinations to do 
and undergo certain sorts of things, and of the doing and under- 
going of these things in the ordinary world. Indeed, it makes no 
sense to speak as if there could be two or eleven worlds. Nothing 
but confusion is achieved by labelling worlds after particular 
avocations. Even the solemn phrase 'the physical world' is as 
philosophically pointless as would be the phrase 'the numismatic 
world', 'the haberdashery world', or 'the botanical world/ 

But it will be urged in defence of the doctrine that 'mental' 
does denote a status that a special footing must be provided for 
sensations, feelings and images. The laboratory sciences provide 
descriptions and correlations of various kinds of things and pro- 
cesses, but our impressions and ideas arc unmentioned in these 
descriptions. They must therefore belong somewhere else. And 
as it is patent that the occurrence of a sensation, for instance, is a 
fact about the person who feels the pain or suffers the dazzle, the 
sensation must be in that person. But this is a special sense of 'in', 
since the surgeon will not find it under the person's epidermis. 
So the sensation must be in the person's mind. 

Moreover sensations, feelings and images are things the owner 
of which must be conscious gf them. Whatever else may be 
contained in his stream of consciousness, at least his sensations, 
feelings and images are parts of that stream. They help to constitute, 



if they do not completely constitute, the stuff of which minds are 

Champions of this argument tend to espouse it with special 
confidence on behalf of images, such as what *I see in my mind's 
eye* and what I have 'running in my head'. They feel certain 
qualms in suggesting too radical a divorce between sensations and 
conditions of the body. Stomach-aches, tickles and singings in the 
ears have physiological attachments which threaten to sully the 
purity of the brook of mental experiences. But the views which I 
see, even when my eyes are shut, and the music and the voices that 
I can hear, even when all is quiet, qualify admirably for membership 
of the kingdom of the mind. I can, within limits, summon, dismiss 
and modify them at will and the location, position and condition of 
my body do not appear to be in any correlation with their 
occurrences or properties. 

This belief in the mental status of images carries with it a 
palatable corollary. When a person has been thinking to himself, 
retrospection commonly shows him that at least a part of what has 
been going on has been a sequence of words heard in his head, as if 
spoken by himself. So the venerable doctrine that discoursing to one- 
self under one's breath is the proprietary business of minds reinforces, 
and is reinforced by, the doctrine that the apparatus of pure thinking 
does not belong to the gross world of physical noises, but consists 
instead of the more ethereal stuff of which dreams are made. 

However, before we can discuss images, there is a lot that must 
be said about sensations, and this chapter is concerned entirely with 
the concepts of sensation and observation. The concept of imaging 
will be discussed in the next chapter. 

For reasons developed in its last section, I am not satisfied with 
this chapter. I have fallen in with the official story that perceiving 
involves having sensations. But this is a sophisticated use of 'sensa- 
tion'. It is not the way in which we ordinarily use the noun 'sensa- 
tion', or the verb 'to feel'. We ordinarily use these words for a special 
family of perceptions, namely, tactual and kinaesthetic perceptions 
and perceptions of temperatures, as well as for localisable pains and 
discomforts. Seeing, hearing, tasting and smelling do not involve 
sensations, in this sense of the word, any more than seeing involves 
hearing, or than feeling a cold draught involves tasting anything. In 
its sophisticated use, 'sensation' seems to be a semi-physiological, 


semi-psychological term, the employment of which is allied with 
certain pseudo-scientific, Cartesian theories. This concept does not 
occur in what novelists, biographers, diarists or nursemaids say 
about people, or in what doctors, dentists or oculists say to their 

In its familiar, unsophisticated use, 'sensation' does not stand for 
an ingredient in perceptions, but for a kind of perception. But, 
neither in its sophisticated use does it signify a notion contained in 
the notion of perception. People knew how to talk about seeing, 
hearing and feeling things, before they had mastered any physiological 
or psychological hypotheses, or heard of any theoretical difficulties 
about the communications between Minds and their Bodies. 

I do not know the right idioms in which to discuss these matters, 
but I hope that my discussion of them in the official idioms may 
have at least some internal Fifth Column efficacy. 

(2) Sensations. 

For certain purposes it is convenient to divide sensations into 
those which enter ex officio into sense perception, and those which 
do not; that is, roughly, into those which are connected with the 
special organs of sense, namely the eyes, ears, tongue, nose and skin, 
and those which are connected with the other sensitive but non- 
sensory organs of the body. But this division is somewhat arbitrary. 
When the eye is dazzled, and when the nose stings, we incline to 
rank these sensations with the organic sensations of aches and 
prickings, and, conversely, when we have certain sensations in the 
throat or stomach, we are apt to say that we feel the fish-bone or the 
suet-pudding. A specific muscular sensation might be described 
indifferently as a sensation of fatigue, or as a feeling of the weight or 
resistance of the log, and a listener might report to one companion 
that he heard a very distant train, while he reported to the other 
that he could barely distinguish the noise from the normal throbbing 
or singing in his ears. 

For obvious reasons we have constantly to refer to the sensations 
which are connected with the organs of sense, for we are constantly 
having to mention what we see and do not see, what we hear, 
smell, taste and feel. But we do not talk about these sensations 
'neat'; we ordinarily mention them only in reference to the 
things or events which we are observing or trying or claiming 


to observe. People speak of having a glimpse, but only in such 
contexts as having a glimpse of a robin, or as having a glimpse 
of something moving. Nor do they break out of this habit, 
when asked to describe how something looked, or sounded, 
or tasted; they will normally say that it looked like a haystack, that 
it sounded like something humming, or that it tasted as if it had 
pepper in it. 

This procedure of describing sensations by referring in a certain 
way to common objects like haystacks, things that hum, and pepper 
is of great theoretical importance. A haystack, for example, is 
something about the description of which everyone could 
agree. A haystack is something which any observers could 
observe, and we should expect their accounts of it to tally 
with one another, or at least to be capable of correction until they 
did tally. Its position, shape, size, weight, date of construction, 
composition and function are facts which anyone could establish 
by ordinary methods of observation and inquiry. But more than 
this. These methods would also establish how the haystack would 
look, feel and smell to ordinary observers in ordinary conditions of 
observation. When I say that something looks like a haystack, (though 
it may actually be a blanket on a clothes-line), I am describing how 
it looks in terms of what anyone might expect a haystack to look 
like, when observed from a suitable angle, in a suitable light and against 
a suitable background. I am, that is, comparing how the blanket 
looks to me here and now, not with some other particular glimpse 
had by me, or had by some other particular person in a particular 
situation, but with a type of glimpse such as any ordinary observers 
could expect to get in situations of certain sorts, namely in 
situations where they are in the proximity of haystacks in 

Similarly, to say that something tastes peppery is to say that it 
tastes to me now as any peppered viands would taste to anybody 
with a normal palate. It has been suggested that I can never know 
that pepper-grains do give different people similar sensations, 
but for the present it is enough to point out that our ordinary ways 
of imparting information about our own sensations consist in 
making certain sorts of references to what we think could be 
established in anyone's observations of common objects. We 
describe what is personal to ourselves in neutral or impersonal terms. 


Indeed, our descriptions would convey nothing unless couched in 
such terms. These are, after all, the terms which we learned by being 
taught them by others. We do not and cannot describe haystacks 
in terms of this or that set of sensations. We describe our sensations 
by certain sorts of references to observers and things like haystacks. 

We follow the same practice in describing organic sensations. 
When a sufferer describes a pain as a stabbing, a grinding or a 
burning pain, though he does not necessarily think that his pain 
is given to him by a stiletto, a drill or an ember, still he says what 
sort of a pain it is by likening it to the sort of pain that would be 
given to anyone by such instruments. The same account holds of 
such descriptions as 'there is a singing in my ears', 'my blood ran 
cold' and 'I saw stars'. Even to say that one's view is hazy is to liken 
one's view to the way that common objects look to any observer 
who is seeing them through an atmospheric haze. 

The present point of mentioning these ways of describing our 
sensations is to show how and why there exists a linguistic difficulty 
in discussing the logic of concepts of sensation. We do not 
employ a 'neat' sensation vocabulary. We describe particular 
sensations by referring to how common objects regularly look, 
sound and feel to any normal person. 

Epistemologists are fond of using words like 'pains', 'itches', 
'stabs', 'glows' and 'dazzles' as if they were 'neat' sensation names. 
But this practice is doubly misleading. Not only do most of 
these words draw their significance from situations involving 
common objects like fleas, daggers and radiators, but they also 
connote that the person who has the sensations likes or dislikes, or 
might well like or dislike, having them. A pain in my knee is a 
sensation that I mind having; so 'unnoticed pain' is an absurd 
expression, where 'unnoticed sensation' has no absurdity. 

This point can serve to introduce a conceptual distinction which 
will shortly turn out to be of cardinal importance, namely, that be- 
tween having a sensation and observing. When a person is said to be 
watching, scanning or looking at something, listening to it or 
savouring it, a part, but only a part, of what is meant is that he is 
having visual, auditory or gustatory sensations. But to be observing 
something the observer must also it least be trying to find something 
out. His scrutiny is accordingly describablc as careful or careless, 
cursory or sustained, methodical or haphazard, accurate or 


inaccurate, expert or amateurish. Observing is a task which can be 
one of some arduousness, and we can be more or less successful 
in it and more or less good at it. But none of these ways of 
characterising the exercises of one's powers of observation can be 
applied to the having of visual, auditory or gustatory sensations. 
One can listen carefully, but not have a singing in one's ears 
carefully; one can look systematically, but one cannot have a 
dazzle-sensation systematically; one can try to discriminate flavours, 
but one cannot try to have sensations of taste. Again we observe, very 
often, from inquisitiveness or obedience, but we do not have 
tickles from this or any other motive. We observe on purpose, but 
we do not have sensations on purpose, though we can induce them 
on purpose. We can make mistakes of observation, but it is nonsense 
to speak of cither making or avoiding mistakes in sensation; sensa- 
tions can be neither correct nor incorrect, veridical nor non-veridical. 
They are neither apprehensions nor misapprehensions. Observing 
is finding out, or trying to find out, something, but having a sensation 
is neither finding out, nor trying to find out, nor failing to find out, 

This set of contrasts enables us to say that though mention of 
the degree to which, the ways in which and the objects of which a 
person is observant or unobservant is a part of the description of 
his wits and character, mention of his sensory capacities and actual 
sensations is no part of that description. To use an objectionable 
phrase, there is nothing 'mental' about sensations. Deafness is not a 
species of stupidity, nor is a squint any sort of turpitude; the 
retriever's keenness of scent does not prove him intelligent; and 
we do not try to train or shame children out of colour-blindness 
or think of them as mentally defective. It is not for the moralist 
or the alienist, but for the oculist, to diagnose and prescribe for 
imperfect vision. Having a sensation is not an exercise of a quality 
of intellect or character. Hence we are not too proud to concede 
sensations to reptiles. 

Whatever series of sensations an intelligent person may have, 
it is always conceivable that a merely sentient creature might have 
had a precisely similar series; and if by 'stream of consciousness' 
were meant 'series of sensations',*then from a mere inventory of the 
contents of such a stream there would be no possibility of deciding 
whether the creature that had these sensations was an animal or a 


human being; an idiot, a lunatic or a sane man; much less whether 
he was an ambitious and argumentative philologist or a slow-witted 
but industrious magistrates' clerk. 

However, these considerations will not satisfy the theorists who 
want to make the stream of a person's sensations, feelings and 
images the stuff of his mind, and thus to back up the dogma that 
minds are special-status things composed of a special stuff. They 
will urge, quite correctly, that though the oculist and the dentist 
can modify the patient's sensations by applying chemical or 
mechanical treatments to his bodily organs, yet they are debarred 
from observing the sensations themselves. They may observe what 
is physiologically amiss with the patient's eyes and gums, but they 
must rely on the patient's testimony for knowledge of what he sees 
and feels. Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. From 
this it is argued, plausibly but fallaciously, that there does indeed 
exist the hallowed antithesis between the public, physical world 
and the private, mental world, between the things and events 
which anyone may witness and the things or events which only their 
possessor may witness. Planets, microbes, nerves and eardrums are 
publicly observable things in the outside world; sensations, feelings 
and images are privately observable constituents of our several 
mental worlds. 

I want to show that this antithesis is spurious. It is true that the 
cobbler cannot witness the tweaks that I feel when the shoe pinches. 
But it is false that I witness them. The reason why my tweaks cannot 
be witnessed by him is not that some Iron Curtain prevents them 
from being witnessed by anyone save myself, but that they are not 
the sorts of things of which it makes sense to say that they are 
witnessed or unwitnessed at all, even by me. I feel or have the tweaks, 
but I do not discover or peer at them; they are not things that I 
find out about by watching them, listening to them, or savouring 
them. In the sense in which a person may be said to have had a 
robin under observation, it would be nonsense to say that he has had 
a twinge under observation. There may be one or several witnesses 
of a road-accident; there cannot be several witnesses, or even one 
witness, of a qualm. 

We know what it is like to haVe and to need observational aids 
like telescopes, stethoscopes and torches for the observation of 
planets, heart-beats and moths, but we cannot think what it would 


be like to apply such instruments to our sensations. Similarly, 
though we know well what sorts of handicaps impair or prevent our 
observation of common objects, namely handicaps like fogs, tingling 
fingers and singings in the ears, we cannot think of analogous 
impediments getting between us and such sensations as tingles and 
singings in the ears. 

In saying that sensations are not the sorts of things that can be 
observed, I do not mean that they are unobservable in the way in 
which infra-microscopic bacteria, flying bullets, or the mountains 
on the other side of the moon, are unobservable, or that they are 
unobservable in the way in which the planets are unobservable to 
the blind. I mean something like this. Every word that can be written 
down, except words of one letter, has a spelling; some words are 
more difficult to spell than others and some words have several 
different spellings. Yet if we are asked how the letters of the alphabet 
are spelled, we have to answer that they cannot be spelled at all. But 
this 'cannot' does not mean that the task is one of insuperable 
difficulty, but only that the question, 'Of what letters arranged in 
what order does a given letter consist?' is an improper question. As 
letters are neither easy to spell, nor insuperably hard to spell, so, I 
argue, sensations are neither observable nor unobservable. Corres- 
pondingly, however, just as the fact that we may not even ask how 
a letter is spelled by no means precludes us from knowing perfectly 
well how letters are written, so the fact that we may not talk of the 
observation of sensations by no means precludes us from talking 
of the notice or heed that people can pay to their sensations, or of 
the avowals and reports that they can make of the sensations of 
which they have taken notice. Headaches cannot be witnessed, 
but they can be noticed, and while it is improper to advise a 
person not to peep at his tickle, it is quite proper to advise him 
not to pay any heed to it. 

We have seen that observing entails having sensations; a man 
could not be described as watching a robin who had not got a 
single glimpse of it, or as smelling a cheese who had not caught a 
whiff. (I am pretending, what is not true, that words like 'glimpse' 
and 'whiff' stand for sensations. The fact that a glimpse can be 
characterised as 'clear' or 'unclear* shows that it is an observation- 
word and not a 'neat' sensation-word.) An object of observation, 
like a robin, or a cheese, must therefore be the sort of thing of which 


it is possible for observers to catch glimpses, or to get whiffs. But 
many theorists ask us to look away from such common objects as 
robins and cheeses towards such things as glimpses and whiffs, and 
we arc asked to declare that I, though nobody else, can observe the 
glimpses and the whiffs that I get, and observe them in the same 
sense of 'observe' as that in which anyone can observe the robin or 
the cheese. But to grant this would be to grant that if, when I catch a 
glimpse of a robin, I can observe that glimpse, then, in doing so, 
I must get something like a glimpse or a whiff of that glimpse of 
the robin. If sensations are proper objects of observation, then 
observing them must carry with it the having of sensations of 
those sensations analogous to the glimpses of the robin without 
which I could not be watching the robin. And this is clearly absurd. 
There is nothing answering to the phrases 'a glimpse of a glimpse' 
or 'a whiff of a pain* or 'the sound of a tweak' or 'the tingle of a 
tingle', and if there was anything to correspond, the series would 
go on for ever. 

Again, when a person has been watching a horse-race, it is 
proper to ask whether he had a good or a bad view of it, whether 
he watched it carefully or carelessly and whether he tried to see 
as much of it as he could. So, if it was correct to say that a person 
observes his sensations, it would be proper to ask whether his 
inspection of a tickle had been hampered or unhampered, close or 
casual and whether he could have discerned more of it, if he had 
tried. No one ever asks such questions, any more than anyone asks 
how the first letter in 'London' is spelled. There are no such 
questions to ask. This point is partially obscured by the fact that 
the word 'observe', though generally used to cover such processes 
as watching, listening and savouring, or else such achievements as 
descrying and detecting, is sometimes used as a synonym of 'pay 
heed to' and 'notice'. Watching and descrying do involve paying 
heed, but paying heed does not involve watching. 

It follows from this that it was wrong from the start to contrast 
the common objects of anyone's observation, like robins and cheeses, 
with the supposed peculiar objects of my privileged observation, 
namely my sensations, since sensations are not objects of observation 
at all. We do not, consequently, Have to rig up one theatre, called 
'the outside world', to house the common objects of anyone's 
observation, and another, called 'the mind', to house the objects of 


some monopoly observations. The antithesis between 'public' and 
'private' was in part a misconstruction of the antithesis between 
objects which can be looked at, handled and tasted, on the one 
hand, and sensations which are had but not looked at, handled or 
tasted, on the other. It is true and even tautologous that the cobbler 
cannot feel the shoe pinching me, unless the cobbler is myself, 
but this is not because he is excluded from a peep-show open only 
to me, but because it would make no sense to say that he was in 
my pain, and no sense, therefore, to say that he was noticing the 
tweak that I was having. 

Further consequences follow. The properties which we ascertain 
by observation, or not without observation, to characterise the 
common objects of anyone's observation cannot be significantly 
ascribed to, or denied of, sensations. Sensations do not have sizes, 
shapes, positions, temperatures, colours or smells. In the sense in 
which there is always an answer to the question, 'Where is ?' or 
'Where was the robin?', there is no answer to the question, 'Where 
is ?' or 'Where was your glimpse of the robin ?' There is indeed a 
sense in which a tickle is quite properly said to be 'in my foot', or a 
stinging 'in my nose', but this is a different sense from that in which 
bones are in my foot, or pepper-grains are in my nose. So in the 
muddled sense of 'world' in which people say that 'the outside world' 
or 'the public world' contains robins and cheeses, the locations and 
connections of which in that world can be found out, there is not 
another world, or set of worlds, in which the locations and 
connections of sensations can be found out; nor docs the reputed 
problem exist of finding out what are the connections between the 
occupants of the public world and those of any such private 
worlds. Further, while one common object, like a needle, can 
be inside or outside another, like a haystack, there is no 
corresponding antithesis of 'inside' to 'outside' applying to 
sensations. My tweak is not hidden from the cobbler because it is 
inside me, either as being literally inside my skin, or as being, 
metaphorically, in a place to which he has no access. On the 
contrary, it cannot be described, as needles can, as being either 
internal or external to a common object like myself, nor as being 
either hidden or unhidden. Nof can letters be classified as either 
nouns or verbs or adjectives, or described as either obeying or 
disobeying the rules of English syntax. It is, of course, true and 


important that I am the only person who can give a first-hand 
account of the tweaks given me by my ill-fitting shoe, and an oculist 
who cannot speak my language is without his best source of 
information about my visual sensations. But the fact that I alone 
can give first-hand accounts of my sensations does not entail that 
I have, what others lack, the opportunity of observing those 

Two further connected points must be made. First, there is a 
philosophically unexciting though important sense of 'private' in 
which of course my sensations are private or proprietary to me. 
Namely, just as you cannot, in logic, hold my catches, win my 
races, eat my meals, frown my frowns, or dream my dreams, so you 
cannot have my twinges, or my after-images. Nor can Venus have 
Neptune's satellites, or Poland have Bulgaria's history. This is 
simply a part of the logical force of those sentences in which the 
accusative to a transitive verb is a cognate accusative. Such transitive 
verbs do not signify relations. 'I held my catch' does not assert a 
relation between me and a catch, such that that catch might 
conceivably have been in that relation to you instead of to me. It 
is not like 'I stopped my bicycle'; you might well have antici- 
pated me in stopping my bicycle. 

Next, in saying that 'I had a twinge' does not assert a relation, 
as 'I had a hat' does, I am saying that the phrase 'my twinge' does 
not stand for any sort of a thing or 'term'. It does not even stand 
for an episode, though 'I had a twinge' asserts that an episode took 
place. This is part of the reason why it is nonsense to speak of 
observing, inspecting, witnessing or scrutinising sensations, since the 
objects proper to such verbs are things and episodes. 

Yet when we theorise about sensations, we are forcibly tempted 
to talk of them as if they were elusive things or episodes. We 
inadvertently work on such models as that of a solitary man inside 
his tent who sees spots and patches of light and feels indentations in 
the inside of the canvas. He then, perhaps, wishes he could see 
and feel the torches and boots that made those patches of light and 
indentations in the canvas. But, alas, he can never see those torches, 
or feel those boots, as the canvas is always in the way. Now 
illuminated and indented bits of canvas are things; and the momen- 
tary illuminations and indentations of the canvas are episodes. So they 
are the sorts of objects which it is proper to describe as being 


watched, scrutinised and detected by a man inside his tent; and it is 
also proper to speak of them being there, but being unwatched and 
undetected. Moreover a man who can watch or detect illuminated 
or indented canvas could watch and detect torches and boots, if 
they were not screened from him. The situation of a man having 
sensations is, therefore, quite out of analogy with that of the man 
in the tent. Having sensations is not watching or detecting objects; 
and watching and detecting things and episodes is not having them 
in the sense in which one has sensations. 

(3) The Sense Datum Theory. 

It is apposite at this point to comment on a theory sometimes 
known as the 'Sense Datum Theory'. This theory is primarily an 
attempt to elucidate the concepts of sense perception, a part of 
which task consists in elucidating the notions of sensations of sight, 
touch, hearing, smelling and tasting. 

Our everyday verbs like 'see', 'hear' and 'taste' are not used to 
designate sensations 'neat', for we speak of seeing horse-races, 
hearing trains and tasting vintage wines; and horse-races, trains 
and wines are not sensations. Horse-races do not stop, when I shut 
my eyes, and vintage wines are*not obliterated, when I have catarrh. 
We therefore seem to need ways of talking about what does stop, 
when I shut my eyes, and what is obliterated, when I have catarrh, 
ways which shall not depend on mentions of common events or 
liquids. An apparently suitable set of nouns is easily found, since it is 
quite idiomatic to say that my view of the race is interrupted, when I 
shut my eyes, that the look or appearance of the horses is modified 
when tears flow, that the flavour of the wine is obliterated by 
catarrh, and that the noise of the train is dulled, when I stop my ears. 
We can, it is suggested, talk about sensations 'neat' by talking 
about 'looks', 'appearances', 'sounds', 'flavours', 'whiffs" 'tingles', 
'glimpses' and so oA It is suggested, too, that it is necessary to adopt 
some such idioms in order to be able to distinguish the contributions 
made to our observation of common objects by our sensations from 
those made to it by tuition, inference, memory, conjecture, habit, 
imagination and association. 

^/ According to the theory, theti, having a visual sensation can 
be described as getting a momentary look, or visual appearance, of 
something, and having an olfactory sensation as getting a momentary 


whiff of something. But what is it to get a momentary look, or a 
momentary whiff? And what sort of an object is the look, or the 
whiff, which is got^ First of all, the look of a horse-race is not a 
sporting event on a racecourse. In the way in which everyone can 
witness the horse-race/ iMis not possible for everyone to witness 
the momentary look that I get of thatace. You cannot get the look 
that I get, any more than you can suffer the~tweak that I suffer. 
A sense datum, i.e. a momentary look, whiff, tingle or sound, is 
^proprietary to one percipient; Next, (the glimpse of a horse-race 
is described as a momentary patchwork of colour expanses in 
somebody's field of view. But this has to be qualified by the 
explanation that it is a patchwork of colour expanses only in a 
special sense. Ordinarily when people talk of patchworks of 
colours, they are referring to common objects of anyone's observa- 
tion such as quilts, tapestries, oil paintings* stage scenery and 
mildewed plaster, that is, to flattish surfaces of things in front of 
their noses. But the visual appearances or looks of things, which are 
described as colour patches momentarily occupying particular 
fields of view, are not to be thought of as surfaces of flattish common 
objects; they are simply expanses of coloufMiot expanses of coloured 
canvas or plaster. They occupy their owner's private visual space, 
though he is, of course, subject to the permanent temptation to 
re-attach them somehow to the surfaces of common objects in 
ordinary space. ^ 

^Jptfially, though holders of the Sense Datum Theory agree that 
the looks, smells and tingles that Fget are inaccessible to anyone 
else, they are not agreed that it follows from this that they are 
mental in status or that they exist 'in my mind'. They seem to owe 
their genesis to the physical and physiological conditions, but not 
necessarily also to the psychological conditions, of their recipient. 

Having, as they think, shown that there exist such momentary 
and proprietary objects as looks, whiffs, sounds and the rest, holders 
of the theory next face the question, fWhat is it for their recipient to 
get or have them ?* And their answer to this question is simple. In 
some statements of the theory, he is said to perceive or observe 
them, in a sense of 'perceive' and 'observe' which makes it proper 
to say that he sees colour patchesf hears sounds, smells whiffs, tastes 
flavours and feels tickles. Indeed jJs often thought not only 
allowable, but illuminating, to say that people do not really see 


horse-races, or taste wines; they really only see colour patches and 
taste flavours; >r else, as a concession to ordinary habits of speech, 
it is admitte? that there is indeed a vulgar sense of 'see' and 'taste* in 
which people may say that they see races and taste wines, but that for 
theoretical purposes we should use these verbs in a different and 
more refined sense, saying instead that we see colour patches and 
taste flavours. 

Recently, however, the fashion has grown up of using a new 
set of verbs vSome holders of the theory now prefer to say that we 
intuit colour patches, we have direct awareness of smells, we have 
immediate acquaintanceship with noises, we are in direct cognitive 
relations with tickles, or, generically, we sense sense data. But 
what is the cash value of these formidable locutions? Their cash 
value is this. There are some verbs, like 'guess', 'discover', 'conclude', 
'know', 'believe' and 'wonder', which are used only with such 
complements as '. . . that tomorrow is Sunday', or '. . . whether this 
is red ink'. There are other verbs, like 'peep at', 'listen to', 'observe', 
'espy' and 'come across', the proper complements of which are 
such expressions as '. . . that robin', '. . . the roll of drums' and 
'. . . John Doe'.Tf he Sense Datum Theory, according to which 
looks, whiffs and so on are particular objects or events, has therefore 
to employ cognition verbs of the second sort in order to construe 
such verbs as 'get' and 'have' in such expressions as 'get a glimpse' 
or 'have a tickle'] It has borrowed the ordinary force of verbs like 
'observe', 'scan* and 'savour' for its solemnised verbs 'intuit', 
'cognise' and 'sense'. The difference is that while laymen speak of 
observing a robin and scanning a page of The Times, this theory 
speaks instead of intuiting colour patches and having immediate 
acquaintanceship with smells. 

It is not claimed that this account of what it is to have, e.g. a 
visual sensation namely that it is to intuit or espy a proprietary 
patchwork of colours by itself solves the whole problem of our 
knowledge of common objects. Disputes continue about the 
linkages obtaining between horse-races, which we do not 'strictly' 
or 'directly' see, and the looks of them, which we do 'strictly' or 
'directly' see, but which are not on racecourses. Buj^tfye holders 
of the theory hope that their elucidation of what sensing is will lead 
to the elucidation of what watchine^ horse-race is. ) 

In particular it is claimed tha( the theory resolves paradoxes 


in the description of illusions, w hen the squinter reports that he 
sees two candles, where there is only one, and when the dipsomaniac 
says -that he sees a snake, where no snake is, their reports can now 
be reconstrued in the new idiom. The squinter can now be said 
really to be seeing two 'candle-looks', and the dipsomaniac really 
does see one 'snake-appearance'. Their only error, if any, lies in 
their supposing that there also exist two physical candles, or one 
physical snake. Again, when a person, confronted by a round plate 
tilted away from him, says that he sees an elliptical object, he is 
in error if he supposes that the kitchen contains an elliptical piece x 
of crockery, but he is quite correct in saying that he finds some- 
thing elliptical; for there really is an elliptical patch of white in his 
field of view, and he really does descry or 'intuit' it there. To argue 
from what he finds in his field of view to what exists in the kitchen 
is always hazardous, and in this instance it is wrong) But what he 
finds in his field of view really is there and really is elliptical. ^ 
I shall try to prove that this whole theory rests upon a logical 
howler, the howler, namely, of assimilating the concept of sensation 
to the concept of observation; and I shall try to show that this 
assimilation makes nonsense simultaneously of the concept of sensa- 
tion and of the concept of observation. The theory says that 
when a person has a visual sensation, on the occasion, for example, 
of getting a glimpse of a horse-race, his having this sensation 
consists in his finding or intuiting a sensum, namely a patchwork of 
colours. ^Tbis means that having a glimpse of a horse-race is 
explained in terms of fiis Faving a glimpse of something else, the 
patchwork of colour^ But if having a glimpse of a horse-race" 
entails having at least one sensation, then having a glimpse 
of colour patches must again involve having at least one 
appropriate sensation, which in its turn must be analysed into 
the sensing of yet an earlier sensum, and so on for ever. At each 
move having a sensation is construed as a sort of espying of a 
particular something, often gravely called 'a sensible object', and 
at each move this espying must involve the having of a sensation. 
The use of awe-inspiring words like 'intuit' in no way exempts us 
from having to say thafcjfor a person to find, watch, listen to, peep 
at or savour something he musl be sensitively affected; and to be 
sensitively affected is to have at least one sensation) So whether, as 
we ordinarily think, we see horse-races or whether, as we are 


instructed to think, we intuit colour patches, the descryijig of 
whatever we descry involves our having sensations. And paving 
sensations is not by itself descrying, any more than bricks are houses, 
or letters are words.) 

As has been shown earlier, ( there is an important logical 
connection between the concept or$ensation and that oobscrving 
or perceiving, a connection which by itself entails that they are 
concepts of different kinds. (There is^ a contradiction in saying that 
someone is watching or peeping at something, but not getting even 
one glimpse of it; or in saying that someone is listening to something, 
though he gets no auditory sensation^; Having at least one sensation 
is part of the force of 'perceiving', 'overhearing', 'savouring' and 
jthe rest It follows that having a sensation cannot itself be a species 
of perceiving, finding or espying. If all clothes are concatenations 
of stitches, absurdity results from saying that all stitches are 
themselves very tiny clothes. 

It has already been remarked earlier in this chapter that there 
are several salient^ifferences between the concepts of sensations and 
those of observation, scrutinising, detecting and the rest, which are 
revealed by the uninterchangeability of the epithets by which the 
different things are described. Thus (we can speak of the motives 
from which a person listens to something, but not of the motives 
from which he has an auditory sensation; he may show skill, 
patience and method in peering, but not in having visual sensations. 
Conversely tickles and tastes may be relatively acute, but his 
inspections and detections cannot be so described. (It makes sense 
to speak of someone refraining from watching a race or of his 
suspending his observation of a reptile, but it makes no sense to 
speak of someone refraining from feeling a pain, or suspending the 
tingle in his nose. \ Yet if having a tingle were, as the theory 
holds, intuiting a Special object, it is not clear why this or any 
discomfort should not be dismissed by suspending the intuition 
of it. 

(Sensations then, are not perceivings, observings or findings; 
jihey are not detectings, scannings or inspectings; they are not 
apprehendings, cognisings, intuitings or knowings.y To have a 
sensation is not to be in a cognitive relation to a sensible object. 
There are no such objects. Nor is there any such relation. 
Not only is it false, as was argued earlier, that sensations can be 


objects of observation; it is also false that they are themselves 
observings of objects. } 

A champion of the Sense Datum Theory might admit that, for 
a person to be describable as listening to a train, he must catch at least 
one sound and so have at least one auditory sensation, and 
still deny that, by admitting this point, he necessarily set 
his foot on the suggested Gadarene slope; he need not concede 
that, for a person to be describable as hearing a sound, he must 
have yet a prior sensation in his sensing of that sense datum. 
'Having a sensation' is merely the vulgar way of reporting tKe 
simple intuiting of a special sensible object and to say that a person 
intuits such an object does not entail his being in any way sensitively 
affected. He might be an angelic and impassive contemplator of 
sounds and colour patches, and these might be of any degree of 
intensity, without anything in him being describable as more or less 
acute. He may come across tickles without himself being tickled, 
and the ways in which he becomes acquainted with smells or pains 
need not involve his being sensitive in any way other than that he 
is capable of simple detection or inspection of such things. 

. Such a defence in effect explains the having of sensations as 
the not having any sensations. It avoids the imputed regress by the 
heroic device of suggesting that sensing is a cognitiye process 
which does not require its owner to Be susceptible of stimuli, or to 
be describable as either highly or slightly sensitive. By construing 
sensation as the simple observation of special" objects, it first does 
away with the very concept it was professing to elucidate and, in 
the second stage, makes nonsense of the concept of observation 
itself, since this concept entails the concept of sensations which arc 
not themselves observings. 

w> Alternatively, the Sense Datum Theory may be defended on a 
different ground. It may be said that, whatever may be the logical 
rules governing the concepts of sensation and of observation, it 
remains an unchallengeable fact that in seeing I am directly presented 
with patchworks of colours momentarily occupying my field of 
view, in hearing I am directly presented with noises, in smelling 
with smells and so forth. That sense data are sensed is beyond 
question and independent of theory^NTwo-dimensional colour 
patches are what I see in the strictest sense of 'seej&md these are not 
horses and jockeys, but at best the looks, or visual appearances, of 


horses and jockeys, hrthere are not two candles, then the squinter 
does not really see two candles, but he certainly sees two bright 
somethings, and these can be nothing but two proprietary 'candle- 
looks' or sense data. The Sense Datum Theory is not inventing 
factitious entities^ it is merely drawing our attention to the immediate 
objects of sense which, from our ordinary preoccupation with 
common objects, we are in the habit of cold-shouldering out of 
conversation. If logical considerations seem to require that having 
a sensation shall not be on all fours with descrying hawks, or gazing 
at horse-races, so much the worse for those considerations, since 
having a visual sensation certainly is a non-inferential discerning of a 
particular sensible object. 

Let us consider, then, the hackneyed instance of a person looking 
^(t a round plate tilted away from him, which he may therefore 
describe as looking elliptical; and let us see what, if anything, 
requires us to say that he is descrying a something which really is 
elliptical. It is agreed that the plate is not elliptical but round, 
and for the argument's sake we may corifcede that the spectator is 
veraciously reporting that it looks elliptical, (though round plates, 
however steeply tilted, do not usually look elliptical). The question is 
whether the truth of his report that the plate looks elliptical implies 
that he is really espying, or scanning, an object of sense which is 
elliptical, something which, not being the plate itself, can claim 
to be entitled 'a look' or 'a visual appearance of the plate'. We may 
also grant that ^f we are bound to say that he has come across an 
object of sense which is really elliptical and is a visual appearance of 
the plate, then this elliptical object is a two-dimensional colour 
patch, momentary in existence and proprietary to one percipient, 
i.e. that it is a sense datum and therefore that there are sense data. 
/ Now a person without a theory feels no qualms in saying that 
the round plate might look elliptical. Nor would he feel any qualms 
in saying that the round plate looks as if it were elliptical. But he 
would feel qualms in following the recommendation to say that 
he is seeing an elliptical look of a round plate. ^Though he talks 
easily enough in some contexts of the lotfks of 'things, and easily 
enough in other contexts of seeing things, he does not ordinarily 
talk of seeing or of scanning the looks of things, t)f gazing at views 
of races, of catching glimpses of glimpses of hawks, or of descrying 
the visual appearances of tree-tops. He would feel that, if he mixed 


his ingredients in these fashions, he would be talking the same sort 
of nonsense as he would if he moved from talking of eating biscuitsv 
and talking of taking nibbles of biscuits to talking of eating nibbles 
of biscuits. And he would be quite right. He cannot significantly 
speak of 'eating nibbles', since 'nibble' is already a noun of eating, 
and he cannot talk of 'seeing looks', since 'look' is already a noun of 

"^When he says that the tilted plate has an elliptical look, or 
looks as if it were elliptical, he means that it looks as an elliptical 
but untilted plate would look. Tilted round things sometimes do 
look quite or exactly like untilted elliptical things; straight sticks 
half immersed in water occasionally do look rather like unimmersed 
bent sticks; solid but distant mountains sometimes do look rather 
like flat mural decorations quite near to one's nose. In saying that 
the plate looks elliptical, he is not characterising an^extra object, 
namely 'a look', as being elliptical, he is likening how the tilted 
round plate does look to how untilted elliptical plates do or would 
look. He is not saying 'I am seeing a flat elliptical patch of White', 
but 'I might be seeing an elliptical and untilted piece of white 
china'. We may say that the nearer aeroplane looks faster than the 
distant aeroplane, but we could not say that it has 'a faster look'. 
'Looks faster' means 'looks as if it is flying faster through the air'. 
Talking about the apparent speeds of aeroplanes is not talking about 
the speeds of appearances of aeroplanes. 

In other words, the grammatically unsophisticated sentence 
'the plate has an elliptical look' does not, as the theory assumes, 
express one of those basic relational truths which are so much 
venerated in theory and so seldom used in daily life. It expresses 
a fairly complex proposition of which one part is both general and 
hypothetical. It is applying to the actual look of the plate a rule 
or a recipe about the typical looks of untilted elliptical plates, 
no matter whether there exist such pieces of china or not. It is 
what I have elsewhere called a mongrel-categorical statement. 
It is analogous to saying of someone that he is behaving judicially, 
or talking like a pedagogue. The squinter, aware of his squint, 
who reports that it looks just as if there were two candles on the 
table, or that he might be seeing two candles, is describing how the 
single candle looks by referring to how pairs of candles regularly 
look to spectators who are not squinting; and if, not being aware of 


his squint, he says that there are two candles on the table, he is, 
in this case, misapplying just the same general recipe^JThe expressions 
'it looks . . .', 'it looks as if . . .', 'it has the appearance of. . .', 'I 
might be seeing . . .' and plenty of others of the same family contain 
the force of a certain sort of open hypothetical prescription applied 
to a case in hand. When we say that someone has a pedantic appear- 
ance, we do not mean to suggest that there are two kinds of pedantic " 
beings, namely some men and some appearances of men. We mean 
that he looks rather like some pedantic peoplelook. Similarly /there 
are not two kinds of elliptical objects, namely some platters and some ' 
looks; there are only some platters which are elliptical and others 
which look as if they were elliptical. 

In ordinary life there are certain ways in which we are quite ready 
to speak of patches and splashes of colour. A housewife might say that 
her sitting-room needed a splash of crimson, without specifying 
crimson paper, crimson flowers, crimson rugs, or crimson curtains. 
She might ask her husband to go out and buy 'an expanse of 
crimson . . .', leaving it to him to fill in the lacuna with 'geraniums', 
'distemper', 'cretonne', or whatever else would meet her requirements. 
In a similar way an observer peering through a gap in a hedge might 
say that he saw an area of yellow . . . , but be unable to specify 
whether what he had seen were yellow daffodils, yellow charlock, 
yellow canvas or any other specific kind of common object or 
material. To complete his sentence he could say only 1 saw 
something yellow*. 

fin contrast with this ordinary use of lacuna-expressions like 'a 
patch of yellow . . .' and 'a splash of crimson something or other', 
the Sense Datum Theory recommends another idiom in which we 
are to say 'I see a patch of White* (and not 'I see a patch of white . . .') 
or 'he espied a two-dimensional, elliptical expanse of Blue' 
(and not 'a flat-looking, elliptical-looking blue something or 

Now I am denying that having a visual sensation is a sort ot 
observation describable as the sensing or intuiting of colour patches. 
But I am not denying that a woman can properly ask her husband 
to buy a splash of crimson ... ^ or that a pedestrian can properly 
be said to espy an expanse of yellow something or other through 
a hole in the hedge. What the Sense Datum Theory has done is 
to try to skim an ethereal cream off such ordinary lacuna-descriptions 


of common objects; to talk as if it had found a new class of objects, 
where it has only misconstrued a familiar range of statements 
mentioning how otherwise unparticularised common objects are 
found to look. 

Talking about looks, sounds and smells, about expanses, shapes 
and colours, just as much as talking about perspectives, hazes, focuses 
and twilights, is already talking about common objects, since 
it is applying learned perception recipes for the typical appear- 
ances of common objects to whatever one is trying to make out at 
the moment. (To say that someone caught a glimpse, or heard a 
sound, is already to say more than would be involved in barely 
describing his visual and auditory sensations, for it is already to 
range what he is attending to under fairly general perception recipes. 

This point may be illustrated by reference to the historic 
doctrine of Secondary Qualities. It was half-correctly observed 
that when a common object is described as green, bitter, chilly, 
pungent or shrill, it is being characterised as looking, tasting, feeling, 
smelling or sounding so and so to a sentient observer; it was 
correctly noticed, too,\^that conditions which affect his sensitivity 
make a difference in how the things look, taste, feel, smell or sound 
to him. How loud a train sounds depends in part upon the distance 
of the observer from the train, upon his degree of hardness of 
hearing, upon the direction in which his head is turned, upon 
whether his ears are covered and so forth.] Whether water of 
a certain thermometer-temperature feels chilly or cosy depends 
on the prior thermometer-temperature of his hands. From such 
facts the theoretical jump was made to the doctrine that ^to 
say that an object is green is to say something about the visual 
sensations of the particular observer who reports that it is greerii. It 
was supposed that 'green', 'bitter', 'chilly' and the rest are adjectives 
which properly apply to sensations and are only improperly 
applied to common ojyscts. And then, as it is obviously absurd 
to say that a sensation is a green thing, or an elliptical thing, or 
a chilly thing, it seemed necessary to allot to sensations their 
own peculiar objects, so that 'green' might be suitably applied not 
to the having of a sensation buFto a peculiar object internally 
nursed by that sensation. The *ban on characterising common 
objects of anyone's observation by Secondary Quality adjectives 
led to the invention of some counterpart, privy objects 


to carry those adjectives. Because Secondary Quality adjectives 
would not behave except as predicates in observation reports, 
sensations had to be construed as being themselves observations of 
special objects. 

But fafaen^l describe a common object as green or bitten I am 
not reporting a fact about my present sensation, though I aiflf saying 
something about how it looks or tastes^t am saying that it 
would look or taste so and so to anyone who was in a condition 
and position to see or taste properly. )Hence I do not contradict 
myself if I say that the field is green, though at the moment it looks 
greyish-blue to me; or that the fruit is really bitter, though it appears 
to me quite tasteless. And even when I say that the grass, though 
really green, looks greyish-blue to me, I am still describing my 
momentary sensation only by assimilating it to how common 
objects that are really greyish-blue normally look to anyone who 
can see properly. Secondary Quality adjectives are used and are 
used only for the reporting of publicly ascertainable facts about 
common objects; for it is a publicly ascertainable fact about a field 
that it is green, i.e. that it would look so and so to anyone in a 
position to see it properly. What else could the people who teach 
other people to talk, teach them about the use of these adjectives? 
It must be noticed that the formula 'it would look so and so to 
anyone* cannot be paraphrased by 'it would look green to anyone', 
for to say that something looks green is to say that it looks as it 
would if it were green and conditions were normal^We cannot 
say how something looks, or would look, except by mentioning 
the ascertainable properties of common objects, and then saying 
that this looks now as that can be expected to look. 

So while it is true that to say 'the field is green' entails propositions 
about observers with certain optical equipments and opportunities, 
it is not true that it tells an anecdote about its author^it is analogous 
to the proposition 'this bicycle costs ^ I2 '> which entails hypothetical 
propositions about any actual or possible purchaser, but does not 
state or entail any categorical proposition about its author. That an 
article has a price is a fact about the article and about customers, but 
it is not a fact about an article and about a given customer; still 
less is it a fact merely about a given customer. ; 
, , A person who says 'the searchlight is dazzling* need not himself 
have any dazzle-discomforts; but still he is talking about dazzle- 


discomforts in another way, though it is a way which involves also 
talking about the searchlight(It is fallacious to argue that a searchlight 
cannot be said to be dazzling, unless the speaker is being dazzled, 
and that therefore dazzlingness is not a quality of the searchlight, 
but is a quality of that individual's sense data\ (To say that the 
searchlight is dazzling does not imply that it is now dazzling 
someone; it says only that it would dazzle anyone of normal 
eyesight who was looking at it from a certain distance without any 
protection. My statement 'the searchlight is dazzling* no more 
reports a sensation that I am having than 'the bicycle costs 12' 
reports money that I am handling. In the sense of 'subjective' 
usually intended, /Secondary Qualities are not subjective, though it 
remains true that in the country of the blind adjectives of colour 
would have no use, while adjectives of shape, size, distance, direction 
of motion and so on would have the uses that they have in England. 
Arguments for the subjectivity of Secondary Qualities are apt to 
hinge in fact upon an interesting verbal trick. Adjectives like 'green', 
'sweet' and 'cold' are assimilated to adjectives of discomfort and 
their opposites, like 'dazzling', 'palatable', 'scalding' and 'chilly'. 
Even so, as we have seen, the conclusion drawn does not follow. 
to call the water 'painfully hot' is not to say that the author of the 
;tatement or anyone else is in pain. However, it does refer in a more 
indirect way to people being in pain, ^and as being in pain is a state 
Df mind, namely one of distress, we can say that 'painfully hot' 
alludes indirectly and inter alia to a state of mind. But it certainly 
does not follow that 'the_ water is lukewarm' and 'the sky is blue' 
allude even in this indirect way to states of mind. 'Lukewarm' and 'blue' 
are not adjectives of discomfort or gratification. One road may be 
described as more boring than a second road and as longer than a 
third road; but in the way in which the first description does allude 
to wayfarers feeling bored, the second does not allude to wayfarers' 
moods at all. 

A linguistic consequence of all this argument is that we have no 
employment for such expressions as 'object of sense', 'sensible 
object', 'sensum', 'sense datum', 'sense-content', 'sense field' and 
'sensibilia' ; the epistemologist's transitive verb 'to sense' and his 
intimidating 'direct awareness' and 'acquaintance' can be returned 
to store.) They commemorate nothing more than the attempt to 
give to concepts of sensation the jobs of concepts of observation, 


an attempt which inexorably ended in the postulation of sense data 
as counterparts to the common objects of observation. 

It also follows that we need erect no private theatres to provide 
stages for these postulated extra objects, nor puzzle our heads to 
describe the indescribable relations between these postulated objects 
and everyday things. 

(4) Sensation and Observation. 

It is no part of the object of this book to swell the ranks of 
theories of knowledge in general, or of theories of perception in 
particular. It is, rather, one of its motives to show that a lot of 
the theories that go by those names are, or embody, unwanted 
para-mechanical hypotheses. When theorists pose such 'wires and 
pulleys' questions as, 'How are past experiences stored in the mind?', 
'How does a mind reach out past its screen of sensations to grasp 
the physical realities outside?', 'How do we subsume the data of sense 
under concepts and categories ?', they are apt to pose these problems 
as if they were problems about the existence and interconnections 
of hidden bits of ghostly apparatus. They talk as if they were doing 
something like speculative anatomy or even counter-espionage. 

Since, however, we do not regard the fact that a person has a 
sensation as a fact about his mind, whereas the fact that he observes 
something and the fact that he tends not to observe things of certain 
sorts do belong to the description of his mental operations and 
powers, it is proper to say more about this difference. 

We use the verb 'to observe' in two ways. In one use, to say that 
someone is observing something is to say that he is trying, with or 
without success, to find out something about it by doing at least some 
looking, listening, savouring, smelling or feeling. In another use, a 
person is said to have observed something, when his exploration has 
been successful, i.e. that he has found something out by some such 
methods. Verbs of perception such as 'see', 'hear', 'detect', 'dis- 
criminate' and many others are generally used to record observational 
successes, while verbs like 'watch', 'listen', 'probe', 'scan' and 
'savour' are used to record observational undertakings, the success 
of which may be still in questio*n. Hence it is proper to speak of 
someone watching carefully and successfully, but not of his seeing 
carefully or successfully, of his probing systematically, but not of 


his discovering systematically, and so on. The simple-seeming 
assertion 1 see a linnet* claims a success, where 'I am trying to 
make out what is moving* reports only an investigation. 

In our present inquiry it will sometimes be convenient to use 
the ambiguous word 'observe* just because it can be used as well to 
signify discovery as to signify search. The words 'perception* and 
'perceive* which are often used as cardinal in these inquiries, are 
too narrow since they cover only achievements, as do the specific 
verbs of perception 'see*, 'hear', 'taste*, 'smell* and, in one sense, 

It has already been remarked that observing entails having at 
least one sensation, though having sensations does not entail 
observing. We might now ask, 'What more is there in observing 
than having at least one sensation?* But this formulation of the 
question is misleading, since it suggests that visually observing a 
robin consists in both having at least one visual sensation and 
doing or having something else as well, i.e. in two states or processes 
coupled together, as humming and walking can be coupled together; 
and this need not be the case. As was argued in Chapter V (Section 4) 
there is a crucial difference between doing something with heed 
and doing it, e.g. in absence of mind, but this difference does not 
consist in heeding being a concomitant act, occurring in another 
'place*. So we should ask, not, 'What is an observer doing besides 
having sensations?', but, 'What does the description of an observer 
embody over and above the description of him as having those 
sensations?' This point will be important before long. 

We should begin by dismissing a model which in one form or 
another dominates many speculations about perception. The 
beloved but spurious question, 'How can a person get beyond his 
sensations to apprehension of external realities ?' is often posed as if 
the situation were like this. There is immured in a windowless cell 
a prisoner, who has lived there in solitary confinement since birth. 
All that comes to him from the outside world is flickers of light 
thrown upon his cell-walls and tappings heard through the stones; 
yet from these observed flashes and tappings he becomes, or 
seems to become, apprised of unobserved football-matches, 
flower-gardens and eclipses of tho sun. How then does he learn 
the ciphers in which his signals are arranged, or even find out that 
there are such things as ciphers ? How can he interpret the messages 


which he somehow deciphers, given that the vocabularies of those 
messages are the vocabularies of football and astronomy and not 
those of flickers and tappings? 

This model is of course the familiar picture of the mind as a 
ghost in a machine, about the general defects of which nothing 
more need be said. But certain particular defects do need to be 
noticed. The use of this sort of model involves the explicit or 
implicit assumption that, much as the prisoner can see flickers and 
hear tappings, but cannot, unfortunately, see or hear football 
matches, so we can observe our visual and other sensations, but 
cannot, unfortunately, observe robins. But this is doubly to abuse 
the notion of observation. As has been shown, on the one hand, 
it is nonsense to speak of a person witnessing a sensation, and, on 
the other, the ordinary use of verbs like 'observe', 'espy', 'peer at' 
and so on is in just such contexts as 'observe a robin', 'espy a lady- 
bird' and 'peer at a book'. Football matches are just the sorts of 
things of which we do catch glimpses; and sensations are the sorts 
of things of which it would be absurd to say that anyone caught 
glimpses. In other words, the prison model suggests that, in finding 
out about robins and football matches, we have to do something 
like inferring from sensations, which we do observe, to birds and 
games, which we never could observe; whereas in fact it is robins 
and games that we observe, and it is sensations that we never could 
observe. The question, 'How do we jump from descrying or 
inspecting sensations to becoming apprised of robins and football 
matches?' is a spurious how-question. 

Now there is no unique and central problem of perception. 
There is a range of partially overlapping questions, most of which 
will cease to be intriguing, the moment that a few of them have 
been cleared up. We can illustrate certain of the problems which 
belong to this range in this way. To describe someone as finding a 
thimble is to say something about his having visual, tactual or 
auditory sensations, but it is to say more than that. Similarly to 
describe someone as trying to make out whether what he sees is a 
chaffinch or a robin, a stick or a shadow, a fly on the window or a 
mote in his eye, is to say something about his visual sensations, 
but it is to say more than thjt. Finally, to describe someone as 
'seeing' a snake that is not there, or as 'hearing' voices, where all is 
silent, seems to be saying something about his images, if not about his 


sensations, but it is to say more than that. What more is being said? 
Or, what is the specific force of such descriptions in respect of which 
they differ both from one another and from 'neat* descriptions of 
sensations, supposing that we could produce such descriptions? 
The questions, that is, are not questions of the para-mechanical 
form 'How do we see robins?', but questions of the form, 'How do 
we use such descriptions as "he saw a robin"?' 

When we describe someone as having detected a mosquito in 
the room, what more are we saying than that there was a 
certain sort of singing in his ears ? We begin by answering that he 
not only had a singing in his ears but also recognised or identified 
what he heard as the noise of a fairly adjacent mosquito; and we are 
inclined to go on to say in more generic terms that he was not 
only having a singing in his ears, but was also thinking certain 
thoughts; perhaps that he was subsuming the singing under a 
concept, or that he was coupling an intellectual process with his 
sensitive state. But in saying this sort of thing, though we have one 
foot on the right track, we also have one foot on the wrong track. 
We are beginning to go on the wrong track, when we say that there 
must have taken place such and such conceptual or discursive 
processes ; since this is in effect, if not in intention, to say that detecting 
a mosquito could not happen, unless some special but unobserved 
ghostly wheels had gone round, wheels whose existence and functions 
only epistemologists are clever enough to diagnose. On the 
other hand, in saying this sort of tiling we are also on the right 
track. It is certainly true that a man could not detect a mosquito 
if he did not know what mosquitoes were and what they sounded 
like; or if, through absent-mindedness, panic or stupidity, he failed 
to apply this knowledge to the present situation; for this is part of 
what 'detecting' means. 

We do not, that is, want tidings or hypotheses about any other 
things which the listener may have privily done or undergone. 
Even if there had taken place three, or seventeen, such entr'actes,news 
about them would not explain how detecting a mosquito differs 
from having a shrill singing in the ears. What we want to know is 
how the logical behaviour of 'he detected a mosquito' differs from 
that of 'there was a singing in his cars', from that of 'he tried in vain 
to make out what was making the noise', and from that of 'he 
mistook it for the noise of the wind in the telephone wires'. 


Let us consider a slightly different situation in which a person 
would be described as not merely hearing something, and not 
merely listening to something, and not merely trying to make out 
what he was hearing, but as identifying or recognising what 
he heard, namely the case of a person who recognises a tune. 
For this situation to obtain, there must be notes played in his hearing, 
so he must not be deaf, or anaesthetised, or fast asleep. Recognising 
what he hears entails hearing. It also entails heeding; the absent- 
minded or distracted man is not following the tune. But more than 
this, he must have met this tune before; and he must not only have 
met it, but also ha\ e learned it and not forgotten it. If he did not 
in this sense already know the tune, he could not be said to recognise 
it on listening to it now. 

What then is it for a person to know a tune, that is to have 
learned and not forgotten it? It certainly does not entail his being 
able to tell its name, for it may have no name; and even if he gave it 
the wrong name, he might still be said to know the tune. Nor 
does it entail his being able to describe the tune in words, or write it 
out in musical notation, for few of us could do that, though most 
of us can recognise tunes. He need not even be able to hum or 
whistle the tune, though if he can do so, he certainly knows the 
tune; and if he can hum or whistle plenty of other tunes, but cannot 
produce this one, even when prompted, we suspect that he does not 
know this tune. To describe him as knowing the tune is at the least 
to say that he is capable of recognising it, when he hears it; and he 
will be said to recognise it, when he hears it, if he does any, some or 
all of (be following tilings: if, after hearing a bar or two, he expects 
those bars to follow which do follow; if he does not erroneously 
expect the previous bars to be repeated; if he detects omissions or 
errors in the performance; if, after the music has been switched off 
for a few moments, he expects it to resume about where it does 
resume; if, when several people are whistling different tunes, he 
can pick out who is whistling this tune; if he can beat time correctly; 
if he can accompany it by whistling or humming it in time and 
tune, and so on indefinitely. And when we speak of him expecting 
the notes which are due to follow and not expecting notes or bars 
which are not due to follow, we do not require that he be actually 
thinking ahead. Given that he is surprised, scornful or amused, if 
the due notes and bars do not come at their due times, then it is 


true to say that he was expecting them, even though it is false to 
say that he went through any processes of anticipating them. 

In short, he is now recognising or following the tune, if, knowing 
how it goes, he is now using that knowledge; and he uses that 
knowledge not just by hearing the tune, but by hearing it in a 
special frame of mind, the frame of mind of being ready to hear 
both what he is now hearing and what he will hear, or would be 
about to hear, if the pianist continues playing it and is playing it 
correctly. He knows how it goes and he now hears the notes as 
the progress of that tune. He hears them according to the recipe of 
the tune, in the sense that what he hears is what he is listening for. 
Yet the complexity of this description of him as both hearing the 
notes, as they come, and listening for, or being ready for, the notes 
that do, and the notes that should, come does not imply that he is 
going through a complex of operations. He need not, for example, 
be coupling with his hearing of the notes any silent or murmured 
prose-moves, or 'subsuming' what he hears 'under the concept of 
the tune'. Indeed, if he were told to think the thought of 'Lillibullero', 
without producing, imagining or actually listening to the tunc 
itself, he would say that there was nothing left for him to think; 
and if he were told that the fact that he could recognise the tune, 
even though played in various ways in various situations, meant 
that he had a Concept, or Abstract Idea, of the tune, he would properly 
object that he could not think what it would be like to be con- 
sidering or applying the Abstract Idea of 'Lillibullero', unless tliis 
meant merely that he could recognise the tune, when he heard it, 
detect mistakes and omissions in it, hum snatches from it and so on. 

This enables us to reconsider what was said earlier, namely, 
that a person who recognises what he hears is not only having 
auditory sensations, but is also thinking. It is not true that a 
person following a familiar tune need be thinking thoughts such 
that there must be an answer to the question, 'What thoughts has 
he been thinking?' or even 'What general concepts has he been 
applying?' It is not true that he must have been pondering or 
declaring propositions to himself, or to the company, in English or 
French; and it is not true that he must have been marshalling any 
visual or auditory images. Whatsis true is that he must have been 
in some degree vigilant, and the notes that he heard must have fallen 
as he expected them to fall, or shocked him by not doing so. He was 


neither merely listening, as one might listen to an unfamiliar air, 
nor yet was he necessarily coupling his listening with some other 
process; he was just listening according to the recipe. 

To clarify further the senses in which following a known tune 
is and is not 'thinking', let us consider the case of a person hearing 
a waltz for the first time. He does not know how this tune goes, 
but since he knows how some other waltz tunes go, he knows what 
sorts of rhythms to expect. He is partially but not fully prepared for 
the succeeding bars, and he can partially but not completely place 
the notes already heard and now being heard. He is wondering just 
how the tune goes, and in wondering he is trying to piece out the 
arrangement of the notes. At no moment is he quite ready for 
the note that is due next. That is, he is thinking in the special sense 
of trying to puzzle something out. 

But, in contrast with him, the person who already knows the 
tune follows the tune without any business of puzzling or trying 
to make out how the tune goes. It is completely obvious to him 
all the time. There need be no activity, not even a very swift and 
very easy activity, of trying to resolve uncertainties, for there are no 
uncertainties. He is not listening in a worrying-out way; he is 
just listening. Yet he is not merely hearing notes, for he is hearing 
'Lillibullero'. Not only are the notes clearly audible to him (perhaps 
they are not), but the tune is quite obvious to him; and the obvious- 
ness of the tune is not a fact about his auditory sensitiveness, it is a 
fact about what he has learned and not forgotten and his present 
application of those lessons. 

Finally, though following a familiar tune entails having become 
familiarised with it, it does not require going through any operations 
of reminiscence. Memories of past hearings of the tune need not 
well up, or be called up. The sense of 'thinking' in which a person 
following a familiar tune can be said to be thinking what he is 
hearing, is not that thoughts of past auditions are occurring to him. 
He has not forgotten how it goes, but he is not recalling how it 
formerly went. 

Roughly, to know how a tune goes is to have acquired 
a set of auditory expectation propensities, and to recognise or 
follow a tune is to be hearing expected note after expected note. 
And this does not entail the occurrence of any other exercises of 
expectation than listening for what is being heard and what is due to 


be heard. The description of a person hearing expected notes is indeed 
different from that of a person hearing unexpected notes and from 
that of a person who hears notes without any expectations at all, 
(like a person who is hearing but not listening) ; but this does not 
mean that there is something extra going on in the first person which 
is not going on in the second or the third. It means that the hearing 
is going on in a different way, the description of which difference 
involves, not a report of extra occurrences, but only the characterisa- 
tion of his hearing as specially schooled hearing. That a person is 
following a tune is, if you like, a fact both about his ears and about 
his mind; but it is not a conjunction of one fact about his ears and 
another fact about his mind, or a conjoint report of one incident in 
his sensitive life and another incident in his intellectual life. It is what 
I have called a 'semi-hypothetical', or 'mongrel-categorical', state- 

We can now turn to consider some of the kinds of perceptual 
episodes which are ordinarily taken as the standard models of 
perceptual recognition. We shall see that they are in many important 
respects of a piece with the recognition of a tune. I chose to start 
with the example of someone following a familiar tune, because 
this is a protracted occupation. We can see a gate-post in a flash, 
but we cannot hear Xillibullero' in a flash. There is here, conse- 
quently, no temptation to postulate the occurrence of lightning 
intellectual processes, processes too rapid to be noticed, but 
intellectual enough to execute all the Herculean labours demanded 
by cpistemologists. 

When a person is described as having seen the thimble, part 
of what is said is that he has had at least one visual sensation, but 
a good deal more is said as well. Theorists commonly construe this 
as meaning that a description of a person as having seen the thimble 
both says that he had at least one visual sensation and says that he 
did or underwent something else as well; and they ask accordingly, 
'What else did the finder of the thimble do or undergo, such that 
he would not have found the thimble if he had not done or 
undergone these extra things ?' Their queries are then answered by 
stories about some very swift and unnoticed inferences, or some 
sudden and unremembcrable intellectual leaps, or some fetching 
up of concepts and clapping them upon the heads of the visual data. 
They assume, that is, that because the proposition 'he espied the 


thimble' has a considerable logical complexity, it therefore reports 
a considerable complication of processes. And as these processes are 
not witnessed going on, it is postulated that they must be going on 
in a place where they cannot be witnessed, namely, in the finder's . 
stream of consciousness. 

Our analysis of what we have in mind, when we say that 
someone recognises a tune, can be applied to the new case. 
Certainly a person who espies the thimble is recognising what he 
sees, and this certainly entails not only that he has a visual sensation, 
but also that he has already learned and not forgotten what 
thimbles look like. He has learned enough of the recipe for the 
looks of thimbles to recognise thimbles, when he sees them in 
ordinary lights and positions at ordinary distances and from 
ordinary angles. When he espies the thimble on this occasion, he 
is applying his lesson; he is actually doing what he has learned to do. 
Knowing how thimbles look, he is ready to anticipate, though he 
need not actually anticipate, how it will look, if he approaches it, or 
moves away from it; and when, without having executed any such 
anticipations, he does approach it, or move away from it, it looks 
as he was prepared for it to look. When the actual glimpses of it 
that he gets are got according to the thimble recipe, they satisfy his 
acquired expectation-propensities; and this is his espying the thimble. 

As with the tune, so with the thimble; if the recognition is 
impeded by no difficulties, if, that is, the thimble is obvious to the 
observer from the first glance, then no extra thinking or pondering, 
no puzzlings or reminiscences need be performed. He need not 
say anything in English or in French, to himself or to the world; 
he need not marshal memory images or fancy images; he need not 
wonder, make conjectures, or take precautions; he need not recall 
past episodes; he need do nothing that would be described 
as the thinking of thoughts, though, if linguistically equipped, 
he can be expected to be ready to do some of these things, 
if there arises any call to do so. The sense in which he is 
thinking and not merely having a visual sensation, is that he is 
having a visual sensation in a thimble-seeing frame of mind. Just 
as a person who recognises a tune from the first few bars is prepared 
both retrospectively for those alrSady heard and those now being 
heard and prospectively for the bars that are to follow, though he 
goes through no additional operations of preparing for them, so a 


person who recognises a cow at sight is prepared for a multifarious 
variety of sights, sounds and smells, of none of which need the 
thought actually occur to him. 

The difficulty will probably be felt that even if this sort of 
account of the visual obviousness of thimbles and the auditory 
obviousness of tunes is true, the real question remains unanswered. 
How do we learn that there are thimbles in the first place? 
How can a person who starts with mere sensations reach the stage of 
finding out that there are physical objects? But this is a queer sort 
of how-question, since, construing it in one way, we all know 
the answer perfectly well. We know how infants come to learn 
that some noises do, and others do not, belong to tunes; that some 
tuneless sequences of noises, like nursery rhymes, have recognisable 
rhythms; others, like clock-noises, have recognisable monotonies; 
while yet others, like rattle-noises, are random and disorderly. 
We know, too, the sorts of games and exercises by which mothers 
and nurses teach their infants lessons of these sorts. There is no 
more of an epistemological puzzle involved in describing how 
infants learn perception recipes than there is in describing how 
boys learn to bicycle. They learn by practice, and we can specify 
the sorts of practice that expedite this learning. 

Now clearly stories about learning by practice will not be felt 
to give the solution of the how-question asked above. This question 
was not intended as a question about the stages through which 
capacities and interests develop, or about the aids and impediments 
to their development. What then was intended? Perhaps its poser 
might say something like this. 'There is, perhaps, no philosophical 
puzzle about how children learn tunes, or recognise them, when 
they have once learned them. Nor perhaps is there a puzzle about 
analogous learning of recipes in respect of sights, tastes and smells. 
But there is a big difference between learning a tune and finding 
out that there are such things as violins, thimbles, cows and gate- 
posts. Finding out that there are material objects requires, as 
learning tunes does not, getting beyond noises, sights, tastes and 
smells to public existents other than, and independent of, our personal 
sensations. And by the metaphorical expression 'getting beyond* 
is meant getting to know thaf such objects exist on the basis 
of originally knowing only that these sensations exist. Our puzzle 
is, therefore, in accordance with what principles, and from what 


premisses, can a person validly conclude that cows and gate-posts 
exist? Or, if by some lucky instinct he correctly believes such things 
without inferences, by what inferences can he justify these instinctive 
beliefs?' That is, the how-question is to be construed as a Sherlock 
Holmes question of the type 'what evidence had the detective 
ascertained which enabled him to confirm his suspicion that the 
gamekeeper was the murderer?' And construing the question in 
this way, we can swiftly see that it is an improper question. 
When we speak of the evidence ascertained by the detective, we are 
thinking of things which he or his informants had observed or 
witnessed, such as fingerprints found on glasses and conversations 
overheard by eavesdroppers. But a sensation is not something which 
its owner observes or witnesses. It is not a clue. Listening to a 
conversation entails having auditory sensations, for listening is 
heedful hearing, and hearing entails getting auditory sensations. 
But having sensations is not discovering clues. We discover clues 
by listening to conversations and looking at fingerprints. If we could 
not observe some things, we should not have clues for other things, 
and conversations are just the sorts of things to which we do listen, 
as fingerprints and gate-posts are just the sorts of things at which we 
do look. 

This improper how-question is tempting, partly because there 
is a tendency mistakenly to suppose that all learning is discovery by 
inference from previously ascertained evidence; and then a process of 
sensing sense data is cast for the role of ascertaining the initial 
evidence. In fact, of course, we learn how to make inferences from 
previously ascertained facts just as we learn how to play chess, ride 
bicycles, or recognise gate-posts, namely by practice, reinforced, 
maybe, by some schooling. The application of rules of inference is 
not a condition of learning by practice; it is just one of the countless 
things learned by practice. 

As has been shown, listening and looking are not merely having 
sensations; nor, however, are they joint processes of observing sensa- 
tions and inferring to common objects. A person listening or looking 
is doing something which he would not do, if he were deaf or blind; 
or, what is quite different, if he were absent-minded, distracted or 
quite uninterested; or, what is qifite different again, if he had not 
learned to use his ears and eyes. Observing is using one's ears and 
eyes. But using one's ears and eyes does not entail using, in a different 


sense, one's visual and auditory sensations as clues. It makes no 
sense to speak of 'using' sensations. It will not even do to say that 
in watching a cow, I am finding out about the cow 'by means of 
visual sensations, since this too would suggest that sensations are 
tools, objects which can be handled in the same sorts of ways as 
the things seen and heard can be handled. And this would be even 
more misleading than it would be to say that manipulating a hammer 
involves first manipulating my fingers, or that I control the hammer 
by dint of controlling my fingers. 

There is another favourite model for the description of sensations. 
As flour, sugar, milk, eggs and currants are among the raw materials 
out of which the confectioner concocts cakes, or as bricks and 
limber are among the raw materials of the builder, so sensations are 
often spoken of as the raw materials out of which we construct the 
world we know. As a counterblast to even more misleading stories 
this story had some important merits. But the notions of collecting, 
storing, sorting, unpacking, treating, assembling and arranging, 
which apply to the ingredients of cakes and the materials of houses 
do not apply to sensations. We can ask what a cake is made of, but 
not what knowledge is made of; we can ask what those ingredients 
are to be made into, but not what is going to be concocted or 
constructed out of the visual and auditory sensations which the 
child has recently been having. 

We can conclude, then, that there is no difference of principle, 
though there are plenty of differences in detail, between recognising 
tunes and recognising gate-posts. One such difference may be 
mentioned, before we leave the subject. At a fairly early stage 
of infancy, the child learns to co-ordinate, for example, the sight 
recipes, the sound recipes and the feel recipes of things like rattles 
and kittens; and having begun to learn how things of particular 
sorts can be expected to look, sound and feel, he then begins to 
learn how they behave; when, for example, the rattle or the kitten 
makes a noise and when it makes none. He now observes things 
in an experimental way. But the relatively contemplative business 
of learning tunes does not, by itself, involve much co-ordination of 
looks with sounds, or give much room for experimentation. But 
this is a difference of degree, not one of kind. 

One or two residual points should receive brief notice. First, 
in talking of a person learning a perception recipe, I am not talking 


of his discovering any causal laws, such as those of physiology, 
optics or mechanics. The observation of common objects is prior 
to the discovery of general correlations between special kinds of 
common objects. Next, in talking of a person knowing a perception 
recipe, e.g. knowing how common objects are due to look, sound 
and feel, I am not crediting him with the ability to formulate or 
impart this recipe. Somewhat as most people know how to tie a 
few different sorts of knots, but are quite incapable of describing 
those knots, or following spoken or printed descriptions of them, 
so we all know how to identify a cow at sight a very long time 
before we can tell the world anything about the visible marks by 
which we recognise it, and quite an appreciable time before we 
can draw, paint or even recognise pictures of cows. Indeed, if we 
did not learn to recognise things on sight or hearing, before we 
had learnt to talk about them, we could never start at all. 
Talking and understanding talk themselves involve recognising 
words on saying and hearing them. 

Though I have drawn most of my instances of seeing according 
to perception recipes from cases of non-mistaken observation, 
such as espying a gate-post, where there is a gate-post, the same 
general account holds for mistaken observations such as 'espying' 
a huntsman, where there is really a pillar box, 'discerning' a 
stick, where there is really a shadow, or 'seeing' a snake on the 
eiderdown, when there is really nothing on the eiderdown. Getting 
a thing wrong entails what getting it right entails, namely, the 
use of a technique. A person is not careless, if he has not learned a 
method, but only if he has learned it and does not apply it properly. 
Only a person who can balance can lose his balance; only a person 
who can reason can commit fallacies; only a person who can 
discriminate huntsmen from pillar boxes can mistake a pillar box 
for a huntsman; and only a person who knows what snakes look 
like can fancy he sees a snake without realising that he is only 

(5) Phenomenalism. 

It is of topical interest to say a few words about a theory known 
as 'Phenomenalism'. This theocy maintains that somewhat as 
talking about a cricket team is talking in certain ways about the 
eleven individuals who compose it, so talking about a common 


object like a gate-post is talking in certain ways about the sense data 
which observers do or might get in seeing, hearing and feeling it. 
Just as there is nothing to report in the history of a cricket 
team, save a certain selection of the actions and experiences of its 
members, when playing, travelling, dining and conversing as 
a team, so it is argued, there is nothing more to be said about the 
gate-post than how it does or would look, sound, feel, etc. Indeed, 
even to talk about how it looks, etc., is misleading; for 'it' is simply 
a succinct way of collecting mentions of these looks, sounds, etc., 
which it is proper to team together. It is conceded that this 
programme cannot in fact be carried out. Whereas we could, 
at the cost of long-windedness, relate the fortunes of a team by 
compiling accounts of the team-activities, habits and sentiments 
of its several members, we could not actually say all we know about 
the gate-post by describing the pertinent sensations which observers 
have, or could have. We have no 'neat' sensation vocabulary. 
We can in fact specify our sensations only by mention of common 
objects, including persons. But it is suggested that this is an 
accidental defect of language which would be obviated in a language 
designed to meet the needs of complete logical candour. 

One of the commendable motives of this theory was the desire 
to dispense with occult agencies and principles. Its holders found 
that current theories of perception postulated unobservable entities 
or factors to endow things like gate-posts with properties which 
sensations were debarred from revealing. A gate-post is lasting, 
while sensations are fleeting; it is accessible to anyone, while 
sensations are proprietary; it observes causal regularities, while 
sensations are disorderly; it is unitary, while sensations arc plural. 
So there had been a tendency to say that behind what is revealed to 
the senses there lie some ulterior and very important properties of 
the gate-post, namely that it is an Enduring Substance, a Thing-in- 
Itself, a Centre of Causation, an Objective Unity and a variety of 
other theorists' solemnities. Phenomenalism, accordingly, attempts 
to dispense with these unavailing theorists' nostrums, though, as 
I hope to show, it tries to dispense with the nostrums without 
diagnosing or curing the maladies which they were vainly adduced 
to remedy. 

Phenomenalism also derives from another motive, this time not 
a commendable motive; and it is a motive from which derived also 


the theories against which Phenomenalism was a revolt. Namely 
it supposed that having a sensation is itself a finding of something, 
or that something is 'revealed* in sensation. It assumed the principle 
of the Sense Datum Theory, that having a sensation is itself a piece 
of observing, and indeed the only sort of observing which, being 
proof against mistakes, merited the name 'observation'. We can 
only really find out by observation facts about those objects which 
are directly given in sensations, i.e. such things as colour patches, 
noises, prickings and whiffs. Only propositions about such objects 
were observationally verifiable. It seemed to follow that we cannot 
really observe gate-posts and cannot therefore find out by observa- 
tion the things that we all know quite well about gate-posts. 

We can now see that both Phenomenalism and the theory that 
Phenomenalism was opposing were in error from the start. The 
latter said that since we can observe only sensible objects, gate-posts 
must be partly constituted of elements which cannot be found out 
by observation. Phenomenalism said that since we can observe 
only sensible objects, propositions about gate-posts must be 
translatable into propositions about sensible objects. The truth is 
that 'sensible object' is a nonsensical phrase, so 'propositions about 
sensible objects' is a nonsensical phrase; and so far from it being 
true that we cannot observe gate-posts, 'gate-posts' is a specimen 
of the sorts of complements which alone can be significantly given 
to such expressions as 'John Doe is looking at a so and so'. Such 
facts as that gate-posts last a very long time, especially if well 
creosoted, that, unlike wisps of smoke, they are hard and tough, 
that, unlike shadows, anybody can find them, whether by night or 
day, that they support the weight of gates, but can be consumed by 
fire, can be and are found out by observation and experiment. It 
can also be found out in the same way that gate-posts can look 
very much like trees or men; and that in certain conditions it is 
very easy to make mistakes about their sizes and distances. Certainly 
such facts about gate-posts are not directly given to sense, or 
immediately revealed in sensation; but nothing is so given or 
revealed, since having a sensation is not a finding. 

This shows, too, why language does not enable us to formulate 
the propositions into which, accofding to Phenomenalism, proposi- 
tions about gate-posts should be translatable. It is not because our 
vocabularies are incomplete, but because there are no such objects 


as those for which the extra dictions are desiderated. It is not that 
we have a vocabulary for common objects and lack a vocabulary 
for sensible objects, but that the notion of sensible objects is absurd. 
Not only is it false, then, that ideally we should talk, not in the 
vocabulary of gate-posts, but only in the vocabulary of sensations, 
but we cannot describe sensations themselves without employing 
the vocabulary of common objects. 

The objection may be made that it is improper to give the 
honorific title of 'observation' to the operations by which we and 
astronomers ordinarily satisfy ourselves about robins and spiral 
nebulae. Not only do we often mistake things for other things, 
but we never have a certificate guaranteeing that we are not making 
such a mistake. 'Observation' ought to be reserved for a mistake- 
proof process. 

But why? If it makes sense to call one man a careful and another 
a careless observer, why should we then retract and say that neither 
is genuinely observing, since no degree of cautiousness is ever 
absolute? We do not say that no one ever reasons, just because no 
one ever has a certificate guaranteeing that he has not committed 
a fallacy, so why should it be supposed that there is a kind of 
mistake-proof operation to which alone the verb 'to observe' is 
consecrated? Indeed 'observing', in its task-sense, is just one of the 
verbs to which adverbs like 'carefully', 'carelessly', 'successfully', 
'unavailingly' are appropriate, which shows that there could not 
be a sort of observing, in this sense, where there was neither need 
nor room for precautions against mistakes. 

One motive for demanding a guaranteed mistake-proof brand of 
observation seems to be this. It would be absurd to say that there 
are, or might be, matters of empirical fact which could not, in 
principle, be found out by observation; so, since any ordinary 
observation actually made might be mistaken, there must be a special 
sort of mistake-proof observation, in order that 'empirical' may be 
defined in terms of it. And then sensing is invented to play this role, 
for it is certainly improper to speak of a mistaken sensation. But the 
reason why sensation cannot be mistaken is not because it is a 
mistake-proof observing, but because it is not an observing at all. 
It is as absurd to call a sensation*' veridical' as to call it 'mistaken'. 
The senses are neither honest nor deceitful. Nor does the argument 
justify us in postulating any other kind of automatically veridical 


observation. All it requires is what familiar facts provide, namely 
that observational mistakes, like any others, are detectable and 
corrigible; so no empirical fact, which has in fact been missed by a 
lapse, need be missed by an endless series of lapses. What is wanted 
is not any peculiar certificated process, but the ordinary careful 
processes; not any incorrigible observations, but ordinary corrigible 
observations; not inoculation against mistakes, but ordinary 
precautions against them, ordinary tests for them and ordinary 
corrections of them. Ascertaining is not a process which bases upon 
a fund of certainties a superstructure of guesses; it is a process of 
making sure. Certainties are what we succeed in ascertaining, not 
things which we pick up by accident or benefaction. They are the 
wages of work, not the gifts of revelation. When the sabbatical 
notion of 'the Given* has given place to the week-day notion of 'the 
ascertained', we shall have bade farewell to both Phenomenalism 
and the Sense Datum Theory. 

There was another motive for desiderating a mistake-proof 
brand of observation, namely that it was half-realised that some 
observation words, such as 'perceive', 'see', 'detect', 'hear' and 
'observe' (in its 'find' sense) are what I have called 'achievement 
verbs'. Just as a person cannot win a race unsuccessfully, or solve an 
anagram incorrectly, since 'win' means 'race victoriously' and 
'solve' means 'rearrange correctly', so a person cannot detect 
mistakenly, or see incorrectly. To say that he has detected 
something means that he is not mistaken, and to say that he sees, in 
its dominant sense, means that he is not at fault. It is not that the 
perceiver has used a procedure which prevented him from going 
wrong or set a Faculty to work which is fettered to infallibility, 
but that the perception verb employed itself connotes that he did 
not go wrong. But when we employ the task verbs 'scan', 'listen', 
'search* and the rest, it always makes sense to say that the operations 
denoted by them might go wrong, or be fruitless. There is nothing 
to prevent a scrutiny from being bungled or unavailing. Simple 
logic 'prevents' curing, finding, solving and hitting the bull's eye 
from being bungled or unavailing. The fact that doctors cannot cure 
unsuccessfully does not mean that they are infallible doctors; it 
only means that there is a contradiction in saying that a treatment 
which has succeeded has not succeeded. 

This is why a person who claims to have seen a linnet, or heard 


a nightingale, and is then persuaded that there was no linnet or 
nightingale, at once withdraws his claim to have seen die linnet, 
or heard the nightingale. He does not say that he saw a linnet 
which was not there, or that he heard an unreal nightingale. 
Similarly, a person who claims to have solved an anagram and is 
then persuaded that that is not the solution, withdraws his claim to 
have solved it. He does not say that in a 'strict* or 'refined* sense 
of the verb he solved a 'solution-object', which happened not to 
coincide with the word camouflaged in the anagram. 

Underlying most, if not all of the views criticised in this 
chapter there seems to be one general assumption; the assumption 
that whatever is known is learned either by inference from premisses, 
or, in the case of the ultimate premisses, by some sort of non- 
inferential confrontation. This confrontation has been traditionally 
labelled 'consciousness', 'immediate awareness', 'acquaintance', 
'direct inspection', 'intuition', etc., words which no one without 
an epistemological theory to support ever uses for chronicling 
special episodes in his daily life. 

This pet dichotomy 'either by inference or by intuition' seems to 
have its historical origin in the deference of epistemologists to 
Euclidean geometry. The truths of geometry are either theorems or 
axioms, and since geometry was, for a time, the exemplar of 
scientific knowledge, all other procedures for finding out truths, 
or establishing them, were piously mis-assimilated to this one 
special procedure. 

But the assumption of similarity is false. There are lots of different 
ways of ascertaining things which are neither blank acquiescent 
gazings, nor yet inferrings. Consider the replies we should expect to get 
to the following 'How-do-you-know ?' questions. 'How do you know 
that there are twelve chairs in the room?' 'By counting them'. 'How 
do you know that 9x17 makes 153?' 'By multiplying them and 
then checking the answer by subtracting 17 from 10x17'- 'How 
do you know the spelling of "fuchsia"?' 'By consulting the diction- 
ary'. 'How do you know the dates of the Kings of England?' 'By 
learning them by heart for a strict schoolmaster'. 'How do you 
know that the pain is in your leg and not in your shoulder?' 'They 
are my leg and shoulder, aren't thby?' 'How do you know that the 
fire is out?' 'I looked twice and felt with my hand'. 

In none of these situations should we press to be told the steps 


of any inferences, or the counterparts of any axioms; nor should we 
grumble at the adoption of these different techniques of discovery, 
but only, in cases of doubt, at the carelessness of their execution. 
Nor do we require that tennis should be played as if it were, at 
bottom, a variety of Halma. 

(6) Afterthoughts. 

As I said in the Foreword, there is something seriously amiss with 
the discussions occupying this chapter. I have talked as if we know 
how to use the concept or concepts of sensation; I have spoken with 
almost perfunctory regret of our lack of Wat* sensation words; and 
I have glibly spoken of auditory and visual sensations. But I am sure 
that none of this will do. 

Sometimes we use the word 'sensation' in a sophisticated tone 
of voice to show that we are conversant with modern physio- 
logical, neurological and psychological hypotheses. We use it in 
the same breath with scientific words like 'stimulus', 'nerve-endings' 
and 'rods and cones' ; and when we say that a flash of light causes 
a visual sensation, we think that experimentalists are now able, or 
will one day be able, to tell us what sort of a thing such a visual sensa- 
tion is. But quite different from this is an unsophisticated use of 
'sensation' and 'feeling'; the sense in which I say, without thinking 
about theories, that the electric shock gave me a tingling feeling 
up my arm, or that sensation is now returning to my numbed leg. 
In this use, we are quite ready to say that a piece of grit, or a dazzling 
light, gives us disagreeable sensations in our eyes; but in this use 
we should never say that the tilings we ordinarily look at give us 
any sensations in our eyes at all. When the grit is removed, we can 
reply to the question, 'How does your eye feel now?'. But when we 
switch our gaze from the fi'eld to the sky, we can give no answer 
to the question, 'How has that switch modified the feelings in your 
eyes?'. We can say from our own knowledge how the view has 
changed; and we can say, on hearsay knowledge of special theories, 
that presumably there have been a change of stimuli and a change in 
the reactions of our rods and cone?. But there was nothing which we 
should ordinarily call 'a feeling' ii our eyes at either stage. 

Similarly, a few pungent or acrid smells give us special and 
describable feelings inside our noses and throats; but most smells 


give us no such sensations inside our noses. I can distinguish the 
smell of roses from the smell of bread, but I do not naively describe 
this difference by saying that roses give me one, and bread another, 
sort of sensation or feeling, as electric shocks and hot water do give 
me different sorts of sensations in my hand. 

In our ordinary use of them, the words 'sensation', 'feel' and 
'feeling* originally signify perceptions. A sensation is a sensation of 
something and we feel the ship vibrating, or rolling, as we see its 
flag flying, or hear its siren hooting. We can, in this sense, feel 
things distinctly or indistinctly, as we can smell them distinctly or 
indistinctly. As we see with our eyes and hear with our ears, so we 
feel tilings with our hands, lips, tongues or knees. To find out 
whether or not a common object is sticky, warm, lissom, hard or 
gritty, we have not to look, listen, sniff or savour, but to feel the 
thing. Reporting a sensation is, in this ordinary, unsophisticated use, 
reporting something found out by tactual or kinaesthetic observa- 

True, we often use 'feel' and 'sensation' in a different, though 
derivative way. When a person with sore eyes says that there is a 
gritty feeling under his eyelids, or when a feverish person says that 
his head feels hot and his feet feel cold, they would not withdraw 
their statements on being assured that there was no grit under the 
eyelids, or that the head and feet were of the same temperature. 
For here their 'feel' means 'feels as if, just as 'looks' often means 
'looks as if and 'sounds' means 'sounds as if. But what is needed 
to complete the 'as if clause is a reference to some state of affairs, 
which, if it really obtained, would be found out by feeling in the 
primary sense of this word the sense in which 'I feel a piece 
of grit under my eyelid' would be withdrawn, when the speaker 
was satisfied that there was no grit there. We might call this a 
'post-perceptual' use of the verbs 'feel', 'look', 'sound' and the 

There is, however, an important disparity between 'feel' on 
the one hand and 'see', 'hear', 'taste' and 'smell' on the other. 
A person whose foot is numbed may say not only that he cannot 
feel tilings with his foot, but also that he cannot feel his foot, whereas 
a momentarily blinded or deafened person would say that he could 
not see or hear things with his right eye or right ear, but not that 
he could not see his eye or hear his ear. When sensation returns to 


the numbed foot its owner resumes his ability to report things both 
about the pavement and about the foot. 

It is obvious that this primary concept of sensation is not a 
component of the generic concept of perception, since it is just 
a species of that genus. I can see something without feeling anything, 
just as I can feel something without seeing anything. 

What then of the other, sophisticated sense of 'sensation', the 
sense in which it is said that seeing involves having visual sensations 
or impressions ? Sensations or impressions in this sense are not things 
that people mention, until they have at least a hearsay knowledge 
of physiological, psychological or epistemological theories. Yet long 
before they reach this level of edification, they know how to use 
verbs of perception, like 'see', 'hear', taste', 'smell' and 'feel', and 
they use them then just as they continue to use them after edification. 
So the sophisticated concept of sensations or impressions is not a 
component of their concepts of perception. We could, and should 
do well to discuss with Plato the notion of perception; if we did 
so, we should never have occasion to complain that he had not yet 
graduated to the use of the concepts of seeing, hearing and feeling, 
since he had not yet been told latter-day theories about sensory 

Physiologists and psychologists sometimes lament, or boast, that 
they cannot find a bridge across the gulf separating impressions and 
the nervous excitations which cause them. They take for granted 
the existence of these impressions; it is only the mechanism of their 
causation which, not unnaturally, perplexes them. How could one 
question the existence of sense impressions ? Has it not been notori- 
ous, at least since the time of Descartes, that these are the original, 
the elementary and the constant contents of consciousness ? 

Now when we say that a person is conscious of something, part 
of what we normally mean is that he is ready to avow or report it 
without research or special tuition. Yet just this is what no one ever 
does with his alleged impressions. People are ordinarily ready to 
tell what they see, hear, taste, smell or feel; they are ready, too, to 
tell that it looks as if so and so, or that it sounds or feels as if such and 
such. But they are not ready, indeed they are not even linguistically 
equipped, to tell what impressions they are or have been having. So 
the notion that such episodes occur does not derive from study of 
what ordinary sensible people are found telling. They are not 


mentioned in the deliverances of untutored 'consciousness'. Rather, 
the notion derives from a special causal hypothesis the hypothesis 
that my mind can get in touch with a gate-post, only if the gate-post 
causes something to go on in my body, which in its turn causes 
something else to go on in my mind. Impressions are ghostly 
impulses, postulated for the ends of a para-mechanical theory. The 
very word 'impression', borrowed as it was from the description 
of dents made in wax, betrays the motives of the theory. It is a 
philosophical misfortune that the theory was able to trade on, and 
pervert, the vocabulary in which we tell the things that we find out 
by feeling. It is not a specialists' theory, but a piece of common 
knowledge, that we find out by sensation that things are warm, 
sticky, vibrating and tough. It was, accordingly, made to seem just 
a more general piece of common knowledge that we have sensations 
when we see, hear and smell. The sophisticated notion of sense 
impressions has been smuggled in under the umbrella of the ordinary 
idea of perception by touch. 

I must not omit to mention another unsophisticated use of 
words like 'sensation' and 'feel'. Sometimes a person will say, not 
that he feels a piece of grit under his eyelid, and not that he feels a 
gritty feeling under his eyelids, but that he feels a pain in his eye, or 
has a painful sensation in his eye. Nouns of discomfort, like 'pain', 
'itch' and 'qualm' come then to be treated by some theorists as 
names of specific sensations, where 'sensation' is used in its sophis- 
ticated sense as a synonym of the other sophisticated word 'impres- 
sion'. But if a sufferer is asked just what he feels, he does not satisfy 
the questioner by replying 'a pain' or 'a discomfort', but only by 
replying 'a stabbing feeling', *a gritty feeling', or 'a burning feeling'. 
He has to use a post-perceptual expression to the effect that it feels 
as if something sharp were stabbing him, something gritty were 
scratching him, or something red-hot were scorching him. That 
he is in slight, great or intense distress is information of a different 
sort, given in answer to a different sort of question. So the suggestion 
is mistaken that in nouns like 'pain', 'itch' and 'qualm' we do, after 
all, possess the beginnings of a vocabulary in which to report or 
describe impressions. There remains, however, an interesting and 
perhaps important difference between the sense in which a piece 
of grit hurts me and the sense in which a heard discord, or a seen 
clash of colours, hurts me. The grit literally hurts my eye, where the 


discord only metaphorically hurts my ears. I should not ask the 
chemist for an optical anodyne to stop the distress given to me by 
a clash of colours, and if asked whether the clash hurt my right eye 
more than it hurt my left eye, I should refuse to answer, unless by 
saying that it did not literally hurt my eyes at all, as grit and dazzling 
lights do literally hurt my eyes. 

Words like 'distress 1 , 'distaste', 'grief ' and 'annoyance* are names 
of moods. But 'hurt', 'itch* and 'qualm', when used literally, are 
not the names of moods. We locate hurts and itches where we locate 
the grit, or the straw, that we feel, or fancy we feel. Yet 'hurt' and 
'itch' are not nouns of perception either. Hurts and itches cannot, 
for instance, be distinct or indistinct, clear or unclear. Whereas finding 
something out by sight or touch is an achievement, 'I itch terribly' 
does not report an achievement, or describe anything ascertained. I 
do not know what more is to be said about the logical grammar 
of such words, save that there is much more to be said. 



(i) Foreword. 

I HAVE mentioned the terminological fact that 'mental' is occa- 
sionally used as a synonym of 'imaginary'. A hypochondriac's 
symptoms are sometimes discounted as 'purely mental'. But much 
more important than this linguistic oddity is the fact that there 
exists a quite general tendency among theorists and laymen alike 
to ascribe some sort of an other-worldly reality to the imaginary 
and then to treat minds as the clandestine habitats of such fleshless 
beings. Operations of imagining are, of course, exercises of mental 
powers. But I attempt in this chapter to show that to try to answer 
the question, 'Where do the things and happenings exist which 
people imagine existing?' is to try to answer a spurious question. 
They do not exist anywhere, though they are imagined as 
existing, say, in this room, or in Juan Fernandez. 

The crucial problem is that of describing what is 'seen in the 
mind's eye' and what is 'heard in one's head'. What are spoken 
of as Visual images', 'mental pictures', 'auditory images' and, in 
one use, 'ideas' are commonly taken to be entities which are 
genuinely found existing and found existing elsewhere than in the 
external world. So minds are nominated for their theatres. But, 
as I shall try to show, the familiar truth that people are 
constantly seeing things in their minds' eyes and hearing things in 
their heads is no proof that there exist things which they see 
and hear, or that the people are seeing or hearing. Much as stage- 
murders do not have victims and are not murders, so seeing things in 
one's mind's eye does not involve either the existence of things seen 
or the occurrence of acts of seeing them. So no asylum is required for 
them to exist or occur in. 

The afterthoughts expressed at the end of the last chapter cover 
also some of the things said about sensations in this chapter. 



(2) Picturing and Seeing. 

To sec is one tiling; to picture or visualise is another. A person 
can see things, only when his eyes are open, and when his surroundings 
are illuminated; but he can have pictures in his mind's eye, when his 
eyes are shut and when the world is dark. Similarly, he can hear 
music only in situations in which other people could also hear it; 
but a tune can run in his head, when his neighbour can hear no 
music at all. Moreover, he can see only what is there to be seen 
and hear only what is there to be heard, and often he cannot help 
seeing and hearing what is there to be seen and heard; but 
on some occasions he can choose what pictures shall be before 
his mind's eye and what verses or tunes he shall go over in his 

One way in which people tend to express this difference is by 
writing that, whereas they see trees and hear music, they only 'see', 
in inverted commas, and 'hear' the objects of recollection and 
imagination. The victim of delirium tremcns is described by others, 
not as seeing snakes, but as 'seeing' snakes. This difference of idiom 
is reinforced by another. A person who says that he 'sees' the home 
of his childhood is often prepared to describe his vision as 'vivid', 
'faithful' or 'lifelike', adjectives which he would never apply to 
his sight of what is in front of his nose. For while a doll can be called 
'lifelike', a child cannot; or while a portrait of a face may be faithful, 
the face cannot be any such tiling. In other words, when a person 
says that he 'sees' something which he is not seeing, he knows that 
what he is doing is something which is totally different in kind 
from seeing, just because the verb is inside inverted commas and 
the vision can be described as more or less faithful, or vivid. He may 
say 'I might be there now', but the word 'might' is suitable just 
because it declares that he is not there now. The fact that in certain 
conditions he fails to realise that he is not seeing, but only 'seeing', 
as in dreams, delirium, extreme thirst, hypnosis and conjuring- 
shows, does not in any degree tend to obliterate the distinction 
between the concept of seeing and that of 'seeing', any more than 
the fact that it is often difficult to tell an authentic from a forged 
signature tends to obliterate the distinction between the concept 
of a person signing his own namfc and that of someone else forging 
it. The forgery can be described as a good or bad imitation of the 
real thing; an authentic signature could not be characterised as an 


imitation at all, since it is the real thing without which the forger 
would have nothing to imitate. 

As visual observation has pre-eminence over observation by the 
other senses, so with most people visual imagination is stronger 
than auditory, tactual, kinaesthetic, olfactory and gustatory 
imagination, and consequently the language in which we discuss 
these matters is largely drawn from the language of seeing. People 
speak, for example, of 'picturing' or Visualising' things, but they 
'have no corresponding generic verbs for imagery of the other sorts. 

An unfortunate result ensues. Among the common objects of 
visual observation there exist both visible things and visible 
simulacra of them, both faces and portraits, both signatures and 
forged signatures, both mountains and snapshots of mountains, 
both babies and dolls; and this makes it natural to construe the 
language in which we describe imaginations in an analogous 

If a person says that he is picturing his nursery, we are tempted 
to construe his remark to mean that he is somehow contemplating, 
not his nursery, but another visible object, namely a picture of his 
nursery, only not a photograph or an oil-painting, but some 
counterpart to a photograph, one made of a different sort of stuff. 
Moreover, this paperless picture, which we suppose him to be 
contemplating, is not one of which we too can have a view, for it 
is not in a frame on the wall in front of all of our noses, but some- 
where else, in a gallery which only he can visit. And then we are 
inclined to say that the picture of his nursery which he contemplates 
must be in his mind; and that the 'eyes' with which he contemplates 
it are not his bodily eyes, which perhaps we see to be shut, but his 
mind's eyes. So we inadvertently subscribe to the theory that 
'seeing' is seeing after all, and what is 'seen' by him is as genuine a 
likeness and as genuinely seen as is the oil-painting which is seen by 
everyone. True, it is a short-lived picture, but so are cinematograph- 
pictures. True, too, it is reserved for the one spectator to whom it 
and its gallery belong; but monopolies are not uncommon. 

I want to show that the concept of picturing, visualising or 
'seeing' is a proper and useful concept, but that its use does not 
entail the existence of pictures whidh we contemplate or the existence 
of a gallery in which such pictures are ephcmerally suspended. 
Roughly, imaging occurs, but images are not seen. I do have tunes 


running in my head, but no tunes are being heard, when I have them 
running there. True, a person picturing his nursery is, in a certain 
way, like that person seeing his nursery, but the similarity does not 
consist in his really looking at a real likeness of his nursery, but in his 
really seeming to see his nursery itself, when he is not really seeing 
it. He is not being a spectator of a resemblance of his nursery, but 
he is resembling a spectator of his nursery. 

(3) The Theory of Special Status Pictures. 

Let us first consider some implications of the other doctrine, 
that in visualising I am, in a nearly ordinary sense of the verb, 
seeing a picture with a special status. It is part of this doctrine that the 
picture that I see is not, as snapshots are, in front of my face; on the 
contrary, it has to be not in physical space, but in a space of another 
kind. The child, then, who imagines her wax-doll smiling is seeing 
a picture of a smile. But the picture of the smile is not where the 
doll's lips are, since they are in front of the child's face. So the 
imagined smile is not on the doll's lips at all. Yet this is absurd. 
No one can imagine an unattached smile, and no doll-owner would 
be satisfied with an unsmiling doll plus a separate and impossible 
simulacrum of a smile suspended somewhere else. In fact she does 
not really see a Cheshire smile elsewhere than on the doll's lips; 
she fancies she sees a smile on the doll's lips in front of her face, 
though she does not see one there and would be greatly frightened 
if she did. Similarly the conjuror makes us 'see' (not see) rabbits 
coming out*>f the hat in his hand on the stage in front of our noses; 
he does not induce us to sec (not 'see') shadow-rabbits coming out 
of a second spectral hat, which is not in his hand, but in a space of 
another kind. 

The pictured smile is not, then, a physical phenomenon, i.e. a 
real contortion of the doll's face; nor yet is it a non-physical 
phenomenon observed by the child taking place in a field quite 
detached from her perambulator and her nursery. There is not a 
smile at all, and there is not an effigy of a smile either. There is 
only a child fancying that she sees her doll smiling. So, though she 
is really picturing her doll smiling, she is not looking at a picture 
of a smile; and though I am fane/ing that I see rabbits coming out 
of the hat, I am not seeing real phantasms of rabbits coming out of 
real phantasms of hats. There is not a real life outside, shadowily 


mimicked by some bloodless likenesses inside; there are just things 
and events, people witnessing some of these things and events, and 
people fancying themselves witnessing things and events that they 
are not witnessing. 

Take another case. I start to write down a long and unfamiliar 
word and after a syllable or two, I find that I am not sure how the 
word should go on. I then, perhaps, imagine myself consulting a 
dictionary and in some cases I can then 'see' how the last three 
syllables are printed. In this sort of case it is tempting to say that 
I am really seeing a picture of a printed word, only the picture is 
'in my head', or 'in my mind', since reading off the letters of the 
word that I 'see' feels rather like reading off the letters from a 
dictionary-item, or a photograph of such an item, which I really do 
see. But in another case, I start writing the word and I 'see' the 
next syllable or two on the page on which I am writing and in the 
place where I am to write them. I feel rather as if I were merely 
inking in a word-shadow lying across the page. Yet here it is 
impossible to say that I am having a peep at a picture or ghost of a 
word in a queer space other than physical space, for what I 'see' is 
on my page just to the right of my nib. Again we must say that 
though I picture the word in a certain place, printed in a certain 
type, or written in a certain handwriting, and though I can read off 
the spelling of the word from the way I picture it as printed or 
written, yet there exists no picture, shadow or ghost of the word 
and I see no picture, shadow or ghost of it. I seem to see the word on 
the page itself, and the more vividly and sustainedly I seem to see 
it, the more easily can I transcribe what I seem to see on to my 
paper with my pen. 

Hume notoriously thought that there exist both 'impressions' 
and 'ideas', that is, both sensations and images; and he looked in 
vain for a clear boundary between the two sorts of 'perceptions'. 
Ideas, he thought, tend to be fainter than impressions, and in their 
genesis they are later than impressions, since they are traces, copies 
or reproductions of impressions. Yet he recognised that impressions 
can be of any degree of faintness, and that though every idea is a 
copy, it does not arrive marked 'copy' or 'likeness', any more than 
impressions arrive marked 'original' or 'sitter'. So, on Hume's 
showing, simple inspection cannot decide whether a perception is 
an impression or an idea. Yet the crucial difference remains between 


what is heard in conversation and what is 'heard' in day-dreams, 
between the snakes in the Zoo and the snakes 'seen' by the 
dipsomaniac, between the study that I am in and the nursery in 
which 'I might be now*. His mistake was to suppose that 'seeing' 
is a species of seeing, or that 'perception' is the name of a genus of 
which there are two species, namely impressions and ghosts or 
echoes of impressions. There are no such ghosts, and if there were, 
they would merely be extra impressions; and they would belong 
to seeing, not to 'seeing'. 

Hume's attempt to distinguish between ideas and impressions 
by saying that the latter tend to be more lively than the former was 
one of two bad mistakes. Suppose, first, that 'lively' means Vivid'. 
A person may picture vividly, but he cannot see vividly. One 'idea' 
may be more vivid than another 'idea', but impressions cannot 
be described as vivid at all, just as one doll can be more lifelike than 
another, but a baby cannot be lifelike or unlifclike. To say that the 
difference between babies and dolls is that babies are more lifelike 
than dolls is an obvious absurdity. One actor may be more 
convincing than another actor; but a person who is not acting is 
neither convincing nor unconvincing, and cannot therefore be 
described as more convincing than an actor. Alternatively, if Hume 
was using 'vivid' to mean not 'lifelike' but 'intense', 'acute' or 
'strong', then he was mistaken in the other direction; since, while 
sensations can be compared with other sensations as relatively 
intense, acute or strong, they cannot be so compared with images. 
When I fancy I am hearing a very loud noise, I am not really 
hearing cither a loud or a faint noise; I am not having a mild 
auditory sensation, as I am not having an auditory sensation at all, 
though I am fancying that I am having an intense one. An 
imagined shriek is not ear-splitting, nor yet is it a soothing murmur, 
and an imagined shriek is neither louder nor fainter than a heard 
murmur. It neither drowns it nor is drowned by it. 

Similarly, there are not two species of murderers, those who 
murder people, and those who act the parts of murderers on the 
stage; for these last are not murderers at all. They do not commit 
murders which have the elusive attribute of being shams; they 
pretend to commit ordinary mundcrs, and pretending to murder 
entails, not murdering, but seeming to murder. As mock-murders 
are not murders, so imagined sights and sounds are not sights or 


sounds. They are not, therefore, dim sights, or faint sounds. And 
they are not private sights or sounds either. There is no answer to 
the spurious question, 'Where have you deposited the victim of 
your mock-murder?' since there was no victim. There is no answer 
to the spurious question, * Where do the objects reside that we fancy 
we see?' since there are no such objects. 

It will be asked, 'How can a person seem to hear a tune running 
in his head, unless there is a tune to hear?' Part of the answer is 
easy, namely that he would not be seeming to hear, or fancying that 
he heard, a tune, if he were really hearing one, any more than the 
actor would be simulating murder, if he were really murdering 
someone. But there is more to be said than this. The question, 
'How can a person seem to hear a tune, when there is no tune to be 
heard ?' has the form of a 'wires and pulleys' question. It suggests 
that there exists a mechanical or para-mechanical problem, (like 
those that are properly asked about conjuring-tricks and automatic 
telephones), and that we need to have described to us the hidden 
workings that constitute what a person does, when he fancies himself 
listening to a tune. But to understand what is meant by saying that 
someone is fancying that he hears a tune does not require informa- 
tion about any ulterior processes which may be going on when he 
does so. We already know, and have known since childhood, in 
what situations to describe people as imagining that they see or 
hear or do things. The problem, so far as it is one, is to construe 
these descriptions without falling back into the idioms in which we 
talk of seeing horse-races, hearing concerts and committing murders. 
It is into these idioms that we fall back the moment we say that 
to fancy one sees a dragon is to see a real dragon-phantasm, or that 
to pretend to commit a murder is to commit a real mock- 
murder, or that to seem to hear a tune is to hear a real mental tune. 
To adopt such linguistic practices is to try to convert into species- 
concepts concepts which are designed, anyhow partly, to act 
as factual disclaimers. To say that an action is a mock-murder 
is to say, not that a certain sort of mild or faint murder has been 
committed, but that no sort of murder has been committed ; and to 
say that someone pictures a dragon is to say, not that he dimly sees 
a dragon of a peculiar kind, or omething else very like a dragon, 
but that he does not see a dragon, or anything dragon-like at all. 
Similarly a person who 'sees Helvellyn in his mind's eye' is not 


seeing either the mountain, or a likeness of the mountain; there is 
neither a mountain in front of the eyes in his face, nor a mock- 
mountain in front of any other non-facial eyes. But it is still true 
that he 'might be seeing Helvellyn now' and even that he may fail 
to realise that he is not doing so. 

Let us consider another sort of imaging. Sometimes, when 
someone mentions a blacksmith's forge, I find myself instantaneously 
back in my childhood, visiting a local smithy. I can vividly 'see' 
the glowing red horseshoe on the anvil, fairly vividly 'hear' the 
hammer ringing on the shoe and less vividly 'smell' the singed 
hoof. How should we describe this 'smelling in the mind's nose'? 
Ordinary language provides us with no means of saying that I 
am smelling a 'likeness' of a singed hoof. As has been said already, 
in the ordinary daylit world there are visible faces and mountains, 
as well as other visible objects, which are pictures of faces and 
mountains; there are visible people and visible effigies of people. 
Both trees and reflections of trees can be photographed or reflected 
in mirrors. The visual comparison of seen things with the seen 
likenesses of those things is familiar and easy. With sounds we are 
not quite so well placed, but there are heard noises and heard 
echoes of noises, songs sung and recordings of songs played, voices 
and mimicries of them. So it is easy and tempting to describe visual 
imaging as if it were a case of looking at a likeness instead of looking 
at its original, and it may pass muster to describe auditory imaging 
as if it were a case of hearing a sort of echo or recording, instead of 
hearing the voice itself. But we have no such analogies for smelling, 
tasting or feeling. So when I say that I 'smell' the singed hoof, I 
have no way of paraphrasing my statement into a form of words 
which says instead 'I smell a copy of a singed hoof. The language of 
originals and copies does not apply to smells. 

None the less, I may certainly say that I vividly 'smell' the 
singed hoof, or that its smell comes back to me vividly, and the use 
of this adverb shows by itself that I know that I am not smelling, 
but only 'smelling'. Smells are not vivid, faithful or lifelike; 
they are only more or less strong. Only 'smells' can be vivid, and 
correspondingly they cannot be more or less strong, though I can 
seem to be getting a more or less* strong smell. However vividly 
I may be 'smelling' the smithy, the smell of lavender in my room, 
however faint, is in no degree drowned. There is no competition 


between a smell and a 'smell', as there can be a competition between 
the smell of onions and the smell of lavender. 

If a person who has recently been in a burning house reports 
that he can still 'smell' the smoke, he does not think that the house 
in which he reports it is itself on fire. However vividly he 'smells' 
the smoke, he knows that he smells none; at least, he realises this, 
if he is in his right mind, and if he does not realise it, he will say 
not that the 'smell' is vivid, but, erroneously, that the smell is strong. 
But if the theory were true that to 'smell' smoke were really to 
smell a likeness of smoke, he could have no way of distinguishing 
between 'smelling' and smelling, corresponding to the familiar 
ways in which we distinguish between looking at faces and looking 
at likenesses of them, or between hearing voices and hearing record- 
ings of voices. 

There are usually ocular ways of distinguishing between things 
and snapshots or effigies of them; a picture is flat, has edges 
and perhaps a frame; it can be turned round and turned upside 
down, crumpled and torn. Even an echo, or a recording, of a voice 
can be distinguished, if not audibly, at least by certain mechanical 
criteria from the voice itself. But no such discriminations can be 
made between a smell and a copy of a smell, a taste and a likeness 
of a taste, a tickle and a dummy-tickle; indeed, it makes no sense 
to apply words like 'copy', 'likeness' and 'dummy' to smells, tastes 
and feelings. Consequently we have no temptation to say that a 
person who 'smells' the smithy is really smelling a facsimile or 
likeness of anything. He seems to smell, or he fancies he smells, 
something, but there is no way of talking as if there existed an 
internal smell replica, or smell facsimile, or smell echo. In this case, 
therefore, it is clear that to 'smell' entails not smelling and there- 
fore that imaging is not perceiving a likeness, since it is not per- 
ceiving at all. 

Why, then, is it tempting and natural to misdescribe 'seeing 
things' as the seeing of pictures of things? It is not because 'pictures' 
denotes a genus of which snapshots are one species and mental 
pictures are another, since 'mental pictures' no more denotes pictures 
than 'mock-murders' denotes murders. On the contrary, we speak 
of 'seeing' as if it were a seeiifg of pictures, because the familiar 
experience of seeing snapshots of things and persons so often 
induces the 'seeing' of those things and persons. This is what 


snapshots are for. When a visible likeness of a person is in front of 
my nose, I often seem to be seeing the person himself in front of 
my nose, though he is not there and may be long since dead. I 
should not keep the portrait if it did not perform this function. Or 
when I hear a recording of a friend's voice, I fancy I hear him 
singing or speaking in the room, though he is miles away. The 
genus is seeming to perceive, and of this genus one very familiar 
species is that of seeming to see something, when looking at an 
ordinary snapshot of it. Seeming to see, when no physical likeness 
is before the nose, is another species. Imaging is not having shadowy 
pictures before some shadow-organ called 'the mind's eye'; but 
having paper pictures before the eyes in one's face is a familiar 
stimulus to imaging. 

An oil painting of a friend is described as lifelike, if it makes me 
seem to see the friend in great clarity and detail, when I am not 
actually seeing him. A mere cartoon may be lifelike without being 
at all similar to a lifelike oil painting of the same person. For a 
picture to be lifelike it is not necessary or sufficient that it should 
be an accurate replica of the contours or colouring of the subject's 
face. So when I vividly 'see' a face, this does not entail my 
seeing an accurate replica, since I might see an accurate replica 
without being helped to 'see' the face vividly and vice versa. But 
finding a picture of a person lifelike or 'speaking' entails being 
helped to seem to see the person, since that is what 'lifelike' and 
'speaking' mean. 

People have tended to describe 'seeing' as a seeing of 
genuine but ghostly likenesses, because they wanted to explain 
vividness or lifelikeness in terms of similarity, as if, for me vividly 
to 'see' Helvellyn, I must be actually seeing something else very 
similar to Helvellyn. But this is erroneous. Seeing replicas, however 
accurate, need not result in 'seeing' vividly, and the speakingness of 
a physical likeness has to be described, not in terms of similarity, 
but in terms of the vividness of the 'seeing* which it induces. 

In short, there are no such objects as mental pictures, and if there 
were such objects, seeing them would still not be the same thing as 
seeming to see faces or mountains. We do picture or visualise faces 
and mountains, just as we do, mbre rarely, 'smell' singed hoofs, 
but picturing a face or a mountain is not having before us a picture 
of the face or mountain, it is something that having a physical 


likeness in front of one's nose commonly helps us to do, though we 
can and often do do it without any such promptings. Dreaming, 
again, is not being present at a private cinematograph show; on the 
contrary, witnessing a public cinematograph show is one way of 
inducing a certain sort of dreaming. The spectator there is seeing a 
variously illuminated sheet of linen, but he is 'seeing* rolling 
prairies. So it would invert the true state of affairs to say that the 
dreamer is regarding a variously illuminated sheet of 'mental' 
linen; for there is no mental linen, and if there were, seeing it 
variously illuminated would not be dreaming that one was galloping 
over the prairies. 

The tendency to describe visualising as seeing genuine, but 
internal, likenesses, reinforces and is reinforced by the Sense Datum 
Theory. Many holders of this theory, supposing, erroneously, that 
in 'seeing' I am seeing a peculiar paper-less snapshot, though one 
which, oddly, cannot be turned upside down, think that a fortiori 
in seeing proper I am seeing a peculiar non-physical colour expanse. 
And supposing, erroneously, that having a visual sensation is 
descrying a flat patchwork of colours spread out in 'a private space', 
they find it all the easier to say that in imaging we are scanning a 
more ghostly patchwork of colours hung up in the same gallery 
with that original patchwork of colours. As in my study there 
may be both a person and a shadow or a portrait of that person, so 
in my private sight-gallery there might be both sense data and 
reproductions of sense data. My objections to the interpretation of 
picturing as picture-seeing do not in themselves demolish the 
Sense Datum Theory of sensations; but they do demolish, I hope, 
the ancillary theory that picturing is looking at reproductions of 
sense data. And if I am right in saying that having a visual sensation 
is wrongly described as some sort of observing of a patchwork of 
colours, since the concept of sensation is different from the con- 
cept of observing, it will follow, as can be established on other 
grounds, that imaging is not only not any sort of observing of 
anything; it is also not having a sensation of a special sort. Seeming 
to hear a very loud noise is not being in any degree deafened, nor is 
seeming to see a very bright light being in any degree dazzled. So 
far are ideas from being impressions of a special sort, that to describe 
something as an idea, in this sense, is to deny that an impression is 
being had. 


(4) Imagining. 

It will probably be asked, 'What then is it for a person to fancy 
that he sees or smells something ? How can he seem to hear a tune 
that he does not really hear? And, in particular, how can a person 
fail to be aware that he is only seeming to hear or see, as the 
dipsomaniac certainly fails? In what precise respects is 'seeing' so 
like seeing that the victim often cannot, with the best will and the 
best wits, tell which he is doing?' Now if we divest these questions 
of associations with any 'wires and pulleys' questions, we can see 
that they are simply questions about the concept of imagining or 
make-believe, a concept of which I have so far said nothing positive. 
I have said nothing about it so far, because it seemed necessary to 
begin by vaccinating ourselves against the theory, often tacitly 
assumed, that imagining is to be described as the seeing of pictures 
with a special status. 

But I hope I have now shown that what people commonly 
describe as 'having a mental picture of Helvellyn' or 'having 
Helvellyn before the mind's eye' is actually a special case of 
imagining, namely imagining that we sec Helvellyn in front of 
our noses, and that having a tune running in one's head is imagining 
that one has the tune being played in one's hearing, maybe in a 
concert-hall. If successful, then I have also shown that the notion 
that a mind is a 'place', where mental pictures are seen and repro- 
ductions of voices and tunes are heard, is also wrong. 

There arc hosts of widely divergent sorts of behaviour in the 
conduct of which we should ordinarily and correctly be described 
as imaginative. The mendacious witness in the witness-box, the 
inventor thinking out a new machine, the constructor of a romance, 
the child playing bears, and Henry Irving are all exercising their 
imaginations; but so, too, are the judge listening to the lies of the 
witness, the colleague giving his opinion on the new invention, the 
novel reader, the nurse who refrains from admonishing the 'bears' 
for their subhuman noises, the dramatic critic and the theatre-goers. 
Nor do we say that they are all exercising their imaginations because 
we think that, embedded in a variety of often widely different 
operations, there is one common nuclear operation which all alike 
are performing, any more than we think that what makes 
two men both fanners is some nuclear operation which both do in 
exactly the same way. Just as ploughing is one farming job and tree- 


spraying is another farming job, so inventing a new machine is one 
way of being imaginative and playing bears is another. No one 
thinks that there exists a nuclear farming operation by the 
execution of which alone a man is entitled to be called 'a farmer' ; 
but the concepts wielded in theories of knowledge are apt to be less 
generously treated. It is often assumed that there does exist one 
nuclear operation in which imagination proper consists; it is 
assumed, that is, that the judge following the witness's mendacities, 
and the child playing bears, are both exercising their imaginations 
only if they are both executing some specifically identical ingredient 
operation. This supposed nuclear operation is often supposed 
to be that of seeing things in the mind's eye, hearing things in one's 
head and so on, i.e. some piece of fancied perceiving. Of course, it is 
not denied that the child is doing lots of other things as well; he 
roars, he pads around the floor, he gnashes his teeth and he pretends 
to sleep in what he pretends is a cave. But, according to this view, 
only if he sees pictures in his mind's eye of his furry paws, his 
snowbound den and so on, is he imagining anything. His noises 
and antics may be a help to his picturing, or they may be special 
effects of it, but it is not in making these noises, or performing these 
antics, that he is exercising his imagination, but only in his 'seeing', 
'hearing', 'smelling', 'tasting' and 'feeling' things which are not 
there to be perceived. And the corresponding things will be true 
of the attentive, if sceptical, judge. 

Put as bluntly as this, the doctrine is patently absurd. Most of 
the things for which we ordinarily describe children as imaginative 
arc ruled out in favour of a limited number of operations the 
occurrence and qualities of which it is difficult to ascertain, especially 
from relatively inarticulate children. We see and hear them play, 
but we do not see or hear them 'seeing' or 'hearing' things. We 
read what Conan Doyle wrote, but we do not get a view of what he 
saw in his mind's eye. So, on this theory, we cannot easily tell 
whether children, actors or novelists are imaginative or not, though 
the word 'imagination' came to be wielded in theories of knowledge 
just because we all know how to wield it in our everyday 
descriptions of children, actors and novelists. 

There is no special Faculty .5>f Imagination, occupying itself 
single-mindedly in fancied viewings and hearings. On the contrary, 
'seeing' things is one exercise of imagination, growling somewhat 


like a bear is another; smelling things in the mind's nose is an 
uncommon act of fancy, malingering is a very common one, and 
so forth. Perhaps the chief motive from which many theorists have 
limited the exercises of imagination to the special class of fancied 
perceptions is that they have supposed that, since the mind is 
officially tri-partitioned into the Three Estates of Cognition, Volition 
and Emotion, and since imagination was born into the first, it must 
therefore be excluded from the others. Cognitive malpractices are 
notoriously due to the pranks of undisciplined Imagination, and 
some cognitive successes arc in debt to its primmer activities. So, 
being an (erratic) Squire of Reason, it cannot serve the other 
masters. But we need not pause to discuss this feudal allegory. 
Indeed, if we are asked whether imagining is a cognitive or a non- 
cognitive activity, our proper policy is to ignore the question. 
'Cognitive* belongs to the vocabulary of examination papers. 

(5) Pretending. 

Let us begin by considering the notion of pretending, a notion 
which is partly constitutive of such notions as those of cheating, 
acting a part, playing bears, shamming sick and hypochondria. It 
will be noticed that in some varieties of make-believe, the pretender 
is deliberately simulating or dissimulating, in some varieties he may 
not be quite sure to what extent, if any, he is simulating or dis- 
simulating, and in other varieties he is completely taken in by his 
own acting. On a small scale this can be illustrated by the child 
playing bears, who knows, while in the well-lit drawing-room, that 
he is only playing an amusing game, but feels faint anxieties when 
out on the solitary landing, and cannot be persuaded of his safety 
when in the darkness of a passage. Make-believe is compatible 
with all degrees of scepticism and credulity, a fact which is relevant 
to the supposed problem, 'How can a person fancy that he sees 
something, without realising that he is not seeing it?' But if we pose 
the parallel questions, 'How can a child play bears, without being all 
the time quite sure that it is only a game? How can the malingerer 
fancy that he has symptoms, without being perfectly confident 
that they are only his fancies ?' we see that these questions, and many 
others like them, are not genuifte how-questions at all. The fact 
that people can fancy that they see things, are pursued by bears, or 
have a grumbling appendix, without realising that it is nothing but 


fancy, is simply a part of the unsurprising general fact that not all 
people are, all the time, at all ages and in all conditions, as judicious or 
critical as could be wished. 

To describe someone as pretending is to say that he is playing a 
part, and to play a part is to play the part, normally, of someone 
who is not playing a part, but doing or being something ingenuously 
or naturally. A corpse is motionless, and so is a person pretending 
to be a corpse. But a person pretending to be a corpse is, unlike the 
corpse, trying to be motionless, and, again unlike the corpse, he is 
motionless from the wish to resemble a corpse. He is, perhaps, 
deliberately, skilfully and convincingly motionless, whereas the 
corpse is just motionless. Corpses have to be dead, but mock- 
corpses have to be alive. Indeed, they have to be not only alive, but 
also awake, non-absent-minded and applying their minds to the 
part they are playing. 

Talking about a person pretending to be a bear or a corpse 
involves talking obliquely about how bears and corpses behave, or 
are supposed to behave. He plays these parts by growling as 
bears growl and lying still as corpses lie still. One cannot know how 
to play a part without knowing what it is like to be or do 
ingenuously that which one is staging; nor can one find a mock- 
performance convincing or unconvincing, or dub it skilful or 
inefficient, without knowing how the ingenuous performance itself 
is conducted. Pretending to growl like a bear, or lie still like a 
corpse, is a sophisticated performance, where the bear's growling 
and the corpse's immobility are naive. 

The difference is parallel to that between quoting an assertion 
and making it. If I quote what you asserted, then what I say is 
just what you said ; I may even say it in just your tone of voice. 
Yet the full description of my action is not at all like that of yours. 
Yours was, perhaps, an exercise of the skill of a preacher; mine is 
that of a reporter or mimic; you were being original; I am being an 
echo: you said what you believed; I say what I do not believe. In 
short, the words I utter are uttered, so to speak, as they would 
be written, inside inverted commas. The words you uttered 
were not. You spoke in oratio recta; I may intend what I say to 
be taken as if in oratio obliqua. In* the same sort of way, while the 
bear just growls, the child's growling is, so to speak, inside inverted 
commas. His direct action is, unlike the bear's, one of representation, 


and this obliquely embodies growling. Yet the child is not doing 
two things at once, any more than I, in quoting you, am saying 
two things at once. A mock-performance differs from the ingenuous 
performance which it represents, not in being a complex of 
performances, but in being a performance with a certain sort of 
complex description. A mention of the ingenuous performance 
is an ingredient in the description of the mock-performance. The 
noises issuing from the child may be as similar as you please to 
those issuing from the bear, just as the noises issuing from my lips 
may be as similar as you please to the noises you made in your 
homily, but the concept of such mock-performances is logically 
very different from that of the ingenuous performances. In 
describing their authors, we use quite different batteries of predicates. 

Is a forged signature the same sort of thing as a genuine signature, 
or is it a different sort of thing? If the forgery is perfect, then the one 
cheque really is indistinguishable from the other and so, in this 
sense, they are exactly the same sort of tiling. But forging a signature 
is quite unlike signing; the one requires what the other does not, 
the wish and the ability to produce marks indistinguishable from a 
signature. In this sense they are completely different sorts of things. 
The whole ingenuity of the forger is exerted in trying to make his 
cheque a perfect facsimile of the authentic cheque, the signing of 
which had taken no ingenuity. What he is after has to be described 
in terms of the similarity between writings, just as what the child 
was after has to be described in terms of the similarity between 
his noises and the bear's noises. Deliberate verisimilitude is a part 
of the concept of copying. The very likenesses between copies and 
their originals are what make activities of copying different in type 
from the activities copied. 

There are lots of different sorts of pretending, different motives 
from which people pretend and different criteria by which pretences 
are assessed as skilful or unskilful. The child pretends for fun, the 
hypocrite for profit, the hypochondriac from morbid egotism, the 
spy, sometimes, from patriotism, the actor, sometimes, for art's 
sake, and the cooking instructress for demonstration purposes. Let 
us consider the case of the boxer sparring with his instructor. They 
go through the motions of sericrtis fighting, though they are not 
fighting seriously; they pretend to attack, retreat, punish and 
retaliate, though no victory is aimed at, or defeat feared. The pupil 


is learning manoeuvres by playing at them, the instructor is teaching 
them by playing at them. Yet though they are only mock-fighting, 
they need not be carrying on two collateral activities. They need 
not be both punching and also pulling their punches; both laying 
traps and also betraying the traps they lay; or both plying their 
fists and also plying propositions. They may be going through only 
one set of movements, yet they are making these movements in a 
hypothetical and not in a categorical manner. The notion of hurt 
enters only obliquely into the description of what they are trying 
to do. They are not trying either to hurt or to avoid hurt, but 
only to practise ways in which they would hurt and would avoid 
hurt, if engaged in serious fights. The cardinal thing in sparring is 
abstaining from giving punishing blows, when one could, i.e. in 
situations in which one would give such blows if the fight were 
serious. Sham-fighting is, to put it crudely, a series of calculated 
omissions to fight. 

The central point illustrated by these cases is that a mock- 
performance may be unitary as an action though there is an 
intrinsic duality in its description. Only one thing is done, yet 
to say what is done requires a sentence containing, at the least, both 
a main clause and a subordinate clause. To recognise this is to see 
why there is no more than a verbal appearance of a contradiction 
in saying of an actor, playing the part of an idiot, that he is grimacing 
in an idiotic manner in a highly intelligent manner; or of a clown 
that he is deftly clumsy and brilliantly inane. The scathing 
adjective attaches to the conduct mentioned in the subordinate 
clause of the description and the flattering adjective or adverb to 
the activity mentioned in the main clause, yet only one set of 
motions is executed. Similarly, if I quote a statement, you might 
correctly characterise what I say both as 'accurate' and as 
'inaccurate', for it might be a highly inaccurate statement of the 
size of the National Debt quite accurately quoted, or vice versa. 
Yet I have uttered only one statement. 

Acts of pretending are not the only ones the descriptions of 
which incorporate this dualism between the direct and the oblique. 
If I obey an order, I do the thing I am told to do and I comply 
with the command; but as I coAply with the command by doing 
the thing, I execute only one action. Yet the description of what I 
do is complex in such a way that it would often be correct to 


characterise my conduct by two seemingly conflicting predicates. 
I do what I am told from force of habit, though what I am ordered 
to do is something which I am not in the habit of doing; or I obey 
like a good soldier, though what I am ordered to do is something 
which it is a mark of a bad soldier to do. Similarly, I may do wisely 
in following advice to do something unwise, and I may with 
difficulty carry out a resolve to do something easy. In Chapter VI, 
Section (6) we found it convenient to distinguish verbally between 
higher order tasks and lower order tasks, and between higher 
order performances and lower order performances, meaning by a 
'higher order task', one the description of which incorporates the 
mention of another task of a less complex description. It will be 
realised that the fact that the movements made in the execution of 
one task are entirely similar to those made in the execution of 
another is compatible with the descriptions of the tasks being not 
only different but different in type in the way indicated. 

To return to pretending. The frame of mind of a person 
pretending to be cross is different from that of a person who is 
cross, and different from it not just in the fact that the former is not 
cross. He is not cross, though he acts as if he were; and this simulation 
involves, in some way, the thought of crossness. He must not only 
possess, but in some way be using, the knowledge of what it is for 
someone to be cross. He intentionally models his actions upon 
those of a cross man. But when we say that putting on the behaviour 
of a cross man involves having the thought of crossness, we run a 
certain risk, namely the risk of suggesting that pretending to be 
cross is a tandem process consisting of one operation of meditating 
about crossness, shepherding a second operation of performing the 
quasi-cross actions. Such a suggestion would be wrong. Whether or 
not pieces of make-believe happen to be preceded by, or interlarded 
with, pieces of describing or planning, it is not in this way that 
make-believe involves the thought of what is simulated. The 
business of trying to behave in ways in which a cross man would 
behave is itself, in part, the thought of how he would behave; the 
more or less faithful muscular representation of his poutings and 
stampings is the active utilisation of the knowledge of how he 
would comport himself. We concede that a person knows what the 
publican's temper is like if, though he is unable to give to himself, 
or to us, even a lame verbal description of it, he can yet play the 


part to the life; and if he does so, he cannot then say that he is 
unable to think how the publican behaves when annoyed. 
Mimicking him 15 thinking how he behaves. If we ask the person 
how he thinks the publican acted, we shall not reject a response given 
by impersonation and demand instead a response given in prose. 
Indeed, so far from the concept of pretending to be cross requiring 
for its elucidation a causal story about operations of planning 
shepherding operations of acting quasi-crossly, the converse is the 
case. To explain the sense in which planning a line of conduct leads 
to the pursuance of that line of conduct, it is necessary to show that 
executing a planned task, is doing, not two things, but one thing. 
But the tiling done is an act of a higher order, since its description 
has a logical complexity, like that which characterises the descrip- 
tions of pretending and obeying. To do what one has planned to do 
and to growl like a bear are both relatively sophisticated occupations. 
To describe them, we have obliquely to mention doings, whose 
description embodies no corresponding oblique mentions. Of the 
same type are acts of repenting of what one has done, keeping a 
resolution, jeering at another's performance and complying with the 
rules. In all these cases, as well as in many others, the doing of the 
higher order acts involves the thought of the lower order acts; yet 
the phrase 'involves the thought of does not connote the collateral 
occurrence of another, cogitative act. 

One variety of pretending is worthy of mention at this point. 
A person engaged in a planning or theorising task may find it 
useful or amusing to go through the motions of thinking thoughts 
which are not, or are not yet, what he is disposed ingenuously to 
think. Assuming, supposing, entertaining, toying with ideas and 
considering suggestions are all ways of pretending to adopt schemes 
or theories. The sentences in which the propositions entertained are 
expressed are not being ingenuously used; they are being mock-used. 
There are, metaphorically speaking, inverted commas round them. 
Their employer is wielding them with his intellectual tongue in his 
cheek; he utters them in a hypothetical, not in a categorical frame 
of mind. Very likely he advertises the fact that he is wielding his 
sentences in a sophisticated and not in a naive way by using such 
special signals as the words 'iF, 'suppose', 'granting', 'say' and so on. 
Or, he may talk aloud, or to himself, in a sparring, instead of a fight- 
ing tone of voice. But he may still be misunderstood and accused of 


seriously meaning what he says, and then he has to explain that he 
had not been committing himself to what he had been asserting, 
but only considering just what he would have been committing 
himself to, had he done so. He had been trying out the thought, 
perhaps to give himself practice in it. That is to say, supposing is a 
more sophisticated operation than ingenuous thinking. We have to 
learn to give verdicts before we can learn to operate with suspended 

This point is worth making, partly for its intimate connection 
with the concept of imagining and partly because logicians and 
epistemologists sometimes assume, what I for a long time assumed, 
that entertaining a proposition is a more elementary or naive 
performance than affirming that something is the case, and, what 
follows, that learning, for example, how to use 'therefore' requires 
first having learned to use 'if. This is a mistake. The concept 
of make-believe is of a higher order than that of belief. 

(6) Pretending, Fancying and Imaging. 

There is not much difference between a child playing at being 
a pirate, and one fancying that he is a pirate. So far as there is 
a difference, it seems to come to this, that we use words like 
'play', 'pretend' and 'act the part', when we think of spectators 
finding the performance more or less convincing, whereas we use 
words like 'fancy' and 'imagine' when we are thinking of the actor 
himself being half-convinced; and we use words like 'play' and 
'pretend' for deliberate, concerted and rehearsed performances, 
whereas we are more ready to use words like 'fancy' and 'imagine' 
for those activities of make-believe into which people casually and 
even involuntarily drift. Underlying these two differences there is, 
perhaps, this more radical difference, that we apply the words 
'pretend' and 'act the part', where an overt and muscular representa- 
tion is given of whatever deed or condition is being put on, while 
we tend, with plenty of exceptions, to reserve 'imagine' and 'fancy' 
for some things that people do inaudibly and invisibly because 'in 
their heads', i.e. for their fancied perceptions and not for their 

It is with this special brand of make-believe that we are here 
chiefly concerned, namely what we call 'imaging', 'visualising', 
'seeing in the mind's eye' and 'going through in one's head'. 


Even people who might allow that sparring consists in going through 
some of the motions of fighting in a hypothetical manner will not 
readily allow that the same sort of account holds good of seeing 
Helvellyn in one's mind's eye. What motions are there here to go 
through in a hypothetical manner? Even though in describing how 
the dipsomaniac 'sees' snakes we use inverted commas, as we do in 
describing how the child 'scalps' his nurse, or how the boxer 
'punishes' his sparring partner, it will be urged that the force of 
these commas is not the same in the two sorts of cases. Picturing is 
not sham-seeing in the way that sparring is sham-fighting. 

We have, I hope, got rid of the idea that picturing Helvellyn 
is seeing a picture of Helvellyn, or that having 'Lillibullero' running 
in one's head is listening to a private reproduction, or internal echo, 
of that tune. It is necessary now to get rid of a more subtle supersti- 
tion. Epistemologists have long encouraged us to suppose that a 
mental picture, or a visual image, stands to a visual sensation in 
something like the relation of an echo to a noise, a bruise to a blow 
or a reflection in a mirror to the face reflected. To make this point 
more specific, it has been supposed that what is taking place, when I 
'see', or 'hear', or 'smell', corresponds to that element in perceiving 
which is purely sensuous; and not to that element which constitutes 
recognising or making out; i.e. that imaging is a piece of near- 
sentience and not of a function of intelligence, since it consists in 
having, not indeed a proper sensation, but a shadow-sensation. 

But this opinion is completely false. Whereas an unknown 
tune may be played in a person's hearing, so that he hears the tune 
without knowing how it goes, we cannot say of a person in whose 
head a tune is running that he does not know how it goes. Having 
a tune running in one's head is one familiar way in which knowledge 
of how that tune goes is utilised. So having a tune running in one's 
head is not to be likened to the mere having of auditory sensations; 
it is to be likened rather to the process of following a familiar tune, 
and following a heard tune is not a function of sentience. 

Similarly, if I peer through a hole in a hedge on a misty day, 
I may not be able to identify what I see as a watercourse flowing 
in spate down a mountainside. But it would be absurd for someone 
to say 'I vividly see something* in my mind's eye, but I cannot 
make out even what sort of a thing it is'. True, I can see a face in 
my mind's eye and fail to put a name to its owner, just as I can have a 


tune in my head, the name of which I have forgotten. But I know 
how the tune goes and I know what sort of a face I am picturing. 
Seeing the face in my mind's eye is one of the tilings which my 
knowledge of the face enables me to do ; describing it in words is 
another and a rarer ability; recognising it at sight in the flesh is the 
commonest of all. 

We saw in the previous chapter that perceiving entails both 
having sensations and something else which can be called, in a 
strained sense, 'thinking*. We can now say that to picture, image or 
fancy one sees or hears also entails thinking, in this strained sense. 
Indeed, this should be obvious, if we consider that our picturing of 
something must be charactcrisable as more or less vivid, clear, 
faithful and accurate, adjectives which connote not merely the 
possession but the use of the knowledge of how the object pictured 
does or would really look. It would be absurd for me to say 
that the smell of burning peat comes vividly back to me, 
but that I should not recognise the smell, if the peat were smoking 
in my presence. Imaging, therefore, is not a function of pure 
sentience; and a creature which had sensations, but could not learn, 
could not 'see', or picture, things any more than it could spell. 

A person with a tune running in his head is using his knowledge 
of how the tune goes; he is in a certain way realising what he would 
be hearing, if he were listening to the tune being played. Somewhat 
as the boxer, when sparring, is hitting and parrying in a hypo- 
thetical manner, so the person with a tune running in his head may 
be described as following the tune in a hypothetical manner. 
Further, just as the actor is not really murdering anyone, so the 
person picturing Helvellyn is not really seeing Helvellyn. Indeed, 
as we know, he may have his eyes shut, while he pictures the 
mountain. Picturing Helvellyn, so far from having, or being akin 
to having, visual sensations, is compatible with having no such 
sensations and nothing akin to them. There is nothing akin to 
sensations. Realising, in this way, how Helvellyn would look is 
doing something which stands in the same relation to seeing 
Helvellyn as sophisticated performances stand to those more naive 
performances, whose mention is obliquely contained in the 
description of the higher order performances. 

But there remains, or appears to remain, a crucial difference, 
which may be brought out thus. A sailor, asked to demonstrate 


how a certain knot is tied, finds that lie has no cord with which to 
demonstrate. However, he does nearly as well by merely going 
through the motions of knotting a cord empty-handed. His 
spectators see how he would tie the knot by seeing how he 
manoeuvres his hands and fingers without any cord in them. Now 
although he is, so to speak, hypothetically knotting cord, still he 
is really moving his hands and fingers. But a person picturing 
Helvellyn with his eyes shut, while he is certainly enjoying, so to 
speak, only a hypothetical view of the mountain, does not seem to 
be really doing anything. Perhaps his non-existent visual sensations 
correspond to the sailor's non-existent piece of string, but what 
corresponds to the movements of his hands and fingers ? The sailor 
does show the spectators how the knot would be tied; but the 
person visualising Helvellyn does not thereby show to his companion 
its contours or its colouring. Does he even show them to 

This difference between the two varieties of make-believe is, 
however, nothing but a consequence of the difference between 
perceiving something and bringing something about. This difference 
is not a difference between bringing something about privily and 
bringing something about overtly, for perceiving is not bringing 
anything about. It is getting something or, sometimes, keeping 
something; but it is not effecting anything. Seeing and hearing are 
neither witnessed nor unwitnessed doings, for they are not doings. 
It makes no sense to say 1 saw you seeing the sunset', or 'I failed to 
watch myself hearing the music'. And if it makes no sense to speak 
of my witnessing, or failing to witness, a piece of hearing or seeing, 
a fortiori it makes no sense to speak of my witnessing, or failing to 
witness, a piece of fancied hearing or fancied seeing. No hearing 
or seeing is taking place. 

In the concert-hall a man's neighbour can, perhaps, see him 
beating time to the music and even overhear him half-whistling or 
half-humming to himself the tune the band is playing. But not only 
do we not say that his neighbour sees, or overhears, him hearing the 
music, as he sees or overhears him accompanying it, but we do not 
say, either, that his neighbour fails to witness him hearing the music. 
'Secretly' and 'openly' do not attach to 'hearing', as they can attach 
to 'cursing* and 'plotting'. A fortiori, while his neighbour in the 
train may detect him beating time to a tune that is running in his 


head, he does not claim either to detect, or to fail to detect, his 
bearing' of the imagined tune. 

Next, as we saw in the last chapter, following a known tune 
involves not only hearing the notes, but also much more than 
that. It involves, so to speak, having the proper niche ready 
for each note as it comes. Each note comes as and when it was 
expected to come; what is heard is what was listened for. This 
listening for the due notes entails having learned and not forgotten 
the tune and is therefore a product of training and is not a mere 
function of aural sensitiveness. A deafish man may follow a tune 
better than one who hears it better. 

A person listening to a moderately familiar tune may on 
some occasions describe himself as having got the tune wrong, 
meaning by this that, though he was not himself playing or humming 
the tune, but only listening to it, yet here and there he listened for 
notes other than those which were really due to come; and he was 
taken by surprise to hear a particular movement beginning when it 
did, though he also recognised that it was his mistake to be 
surprised. It must be noticed that his error about the course of the 
tune need not have been, and ordinarily would not have been, formu- 
lated in a false sentence, private or public; all he 'did' was to be 
listening for what was not due to come, in place of what was due 
to come, and this listening for notes is not a deed done, or a series of 
deeds done. 

This very point brings us to the case of a person following an 
imagined tune. To expect a tune to take one course, when it is 
actually taking another, is already to suppose, fancy or imagine. 
When what is heard is not what was listened for, what was listened 
for can be described only as notes which might have been heard, 
and the frame of mind in which they were listened for was therefore 
one of erroneous expectancy. The listener is disappointed, or abashed, 
by what he actually hears. A person going through a tune entirely in 
his head is in a partially similar case. He, too, listens for something 
which he does not get, though he is well aware all the time that he is 
not going to get it. He too can get the tune wrong, and either realise, 
or fail to realise, that he does so, a fact which by itself shows 
that imaging is not merely the having of sensations or sensation- 
echoes, since this could not be characterised as the acceptance of 
either a wrong or a correct version of a tune. 


Going through a tune in one's head is like following a heard 
tune and is, indeed, a sort of rehearsal of it. But what makes the 
imaginative operation similar to the other is not, as is often supposed, 
that it incorporates the hearing of ghosts of notes similar in all but 
loudness to the heard notes of the real tune, but the fact that both are 
utilisations of knowledge of how the tune goes. This knowledge 
is exercised in recognising and following the tune, when actually 
heard; it is exercised in humming or playing it; in noticing the errors 
in its misperformance; it is also exercised in fancying oneself hum- 
ming or playing it and in fancying oneself merely listening to it. 
Knowing a tune just is being able to do some such things as recognise 
and follow it, produce it, detect errors in the playing of it and go 
through it in one's head. We should not allow that a person had 
been unable to think how the tune went, who had whistled it 
correctly or gone through it in his head. Doing such things is 
thinking how the tune goes. 

But the purely imaginative exercise is more sophisticated than 
that of following the tune, when heard, or than that of humming it; 
since it involves the thought of following or producing the tune, in 
the way in which sparring involves the thought of fighting in earnest, 
or in the way in which uttering something at second hand involves 
the thought of its first hand utterance. Fancying one is listening 
to a known tune involves listening for' the notes which would be 
due to be heard, were the tune being really performed. It is to listen 
for those notes in a hypothetical manner. Similarly, fancying one is 
humming a known tune involves 'making ready' for the notes which 
would be due to be hummed, were the tune actually being hummed. 
It is to make ready for those notes in a hypothetical manner. It is not 
humming very, very quietly, but rather it is deliberately not doing 
those pieces of humming which would be due, if one were not 
trying to keep the peace. We might say that imagining oneself 
talking or humming is a series of abstentions from producing the 
noises which would be the due words or notes to produce, if one 
were talking or humming aloud. That is why such operations are 
impenetrably secret; not that the words or notes are being produced 
in a hermetic cell, but that the operations consist of abstentions 
from producing them. That, too, is why learning to fancy one is 
talking or humming comes later than learning to talk or hum. 
Silent soliloquy is a flow of pregnant non-sayings. Refraining from 


saying things, of course, entails knowing both what one would have 
said and how one would have said it. 

Doubtless some people on some occasions of imagining tunes 
fancy themselves not merely passively hearkening but also actively 
producing the notes, just as most imagined discourse contains not 
only imagined hearing but also imagined speaking. Very likely, 
too, people who imagine themselves producing noises tend to 
activate slightly those muscles which they would be activating fully, 
if they were singing or talking aloud, since complete abstention is 
harder than partial abstention. But these are questions of fact with 
which we are not concerned. Our concern is to find out what it 
means to say, e.g. that someone 'hears* something that he is not 

The application of this account to visual and other imagery is 
not difficult. Seeing Helvellyn in one's mind's eye does not entail, 
what seeing Helvellyn and seeing snapshots of Helvellyn entail, 
the having of visual sensations. It does involve the thought of 
having a view of Helvellyn and it is therefore a more sophisticated 
operation than that of having a view of Helvellyn. It is one utilisation 
among others of the knowledge of how Helvellynshould look, or, in 
one sense of the verb, it is thinking how it should look. The expecta- 
tions which are fulfilled in the recognition at sight of Helvellyn are 
not indeed fulfilled in picturing it, but the picturing of it is some- 
thing like a rehearsal of getting them fulfilled. So far from picturing 
involving the having of faint sensations, or wraiths of sensations, 
it involves missing just what one would be due to get, if one were 
seeing the mountain. 

Certainly not all imaging is the picturing of real faces and 
mountains, or the 'hearing' of familiar tunes and known voices. 
We can fancy ourselves looking at fabulous mountains. Composers, 
presumably, can fancy themselves listening to tunes that have never 
yet been played. It may be supposed, accordingly, that in such cases 
there is no question of the imaginary scene being pictured right, or 
of the tune still under composition being 'heard' to go otherwise 
than as it really goes; any more than Hans Andersen could be cither 
accused of misreporting the careers of his characters, or praised for 
the factual fidelity of his narratives. 

Consider the parallels of pretending and quoting. An actor on 
one day plays the part of a Frenchman; on the next day he has to 


play the part of a visitor from Mars. We know how the former 
representation might be convincing or unconvincing; but how could 
the latter? Or I might start by quoting what you have said and go 
on by giving utterance to what you would or could have said. We 
know what it is for a quotation to be accurate, but a pretence 
quotation cannot be either accurate or inaccurate; it can only be, 
in some remoter sense, in character or out of character, by being, 
or failing to be, the sort of tiling that you would or could have said. 
None the less, the actor is pretending to give a convincing repre- 
sentation of the man from Mars, and I am pretending that I am 
quoting your very words. It is just a piece of double representation. A 
boy mimicking a boxer sparring is in a similar case, for he is not 
fighting and he is not rehearsing fighting; he is staging some of 
the moves of a person rehearsing fighting. He is mock-mock- 
fighting. As the predicates by which we comment on fighting do 
not attach to sparring, so the predicates by which we comment on 
sparring do not attach to mimicries of sparring. Correspondingly, 
not only do the predicates by which we comment on our view of 
Helvellyn not attach to the manner in which we picture Helvellyn, 
but also the predicates by which we comment on our visualisations 
of Helvellyn do not attach to our visualisations of Atlantis or Jack's 
Beanstalk. None the less, we pretend that this is how Atlantis and 
the Beanstalk would have looked. We arc doing a piece of double 

We arc now in a position to locate and correct an error made by 
Hume. Supposing, wrongly, that to 'see* or 'hear' is to have a 
shadow-sensation, (which involves the further error of supposing 
that there could be shadow-sensations), he put forward the causal 
theory that one could not have a particular 'idea' without having 
previously had a corresponding sensation, somewhat as having an 
angular bruise involves having been previously struck by an angular 
object. The colours that I see in my mind's eye are, he seems to 
have thought, traces somehow left by the colours previously seen 
by me with my eyes open. The only thing that is true in this account 
is that what I see in my mind's eye and what I hear 'in my 
head' is tied in certain ways to what I have previously seen and 
heard. But the nature of this tie is not at all what Hume supposed. 

We saw that mock-actions presuppose ingenuous actions, in the 
sense that performing the former involves, in a special sense, the 


thought of the latter. A person who had not learned how bears 
growl, or how murderers commit murders, could not play bears, or 
act murders. Nor could he criticise the acting. In the same way, a 
person who had not learned how blue things look, or how the 
postman's knock sounds, could not see blue things in his mind's 
eye, or 'hear' the postman's knock; nor could he recognise blue 
things, or postman's knocks. Now we learn how things look and 
sound chiefly and originally by seeing and hearing them. Imaging, 
being one among many ways of utilising knowledge, requires 
that the relevant knowledge lias been got and not lost. We no 
more need a para-mechanical theory of traces to account for our 
limited ability to see things in our mind's eyes than we need it 
to account for our limited ability to translate French into English. 
All that is required is to see that learning perceptual lessons entails 
some perceiving, that applying those lessons entails having learned 
them, and that imaging is one way of applying those lessons. Addicts 
of the trace theory should try to fit their theory to the case of a tune 
running in someone's head. Is this a revived trace of an auditory 
sensation; or a series of revived traces of a series of auditory 
sensations ? 

(7) Memory. 

It is convenient to append to this discussion of imagination a brief 
excursus on remembering. We must begin by noticing two widely 
different ways in which the verb 'to remember' is commonly used. 

(a) By far the most important and the least discussed use of the 
verb is that use in which remembering something means having 
learned something and not forgotten it. This is the sense in 
which we speak of remembering the Greek alphabet, or the way 
from the gravel-pit to the bathing-place, or the proof of a theorem, 
or how to bicycle, or that the next meeting of the Board will be in 
the last week of July. To say that a person has not forgotten some- 
thing is not to say that he is now doing or undergoing anything, or 
even that he regularly or occasionally does or undergoes anything. 
It is to say that he can do certain things, such as go through the 
Greek alphabet, direct a stranger back from the bathing-place to 
the gravel-pit and correct someone who says that the next meeting 
of the Board is in the second week in July. 

What, in this use, is said to be remembered is any learned lesson, 


and what is learned and not forgotten need have nothing to do with 
the past, though the learning of it of course precedes the condition 
of not having forgotten it. 'Remember' in this use is often, though 
not always, an allowable paraphrase of the verb 'to know'. 

(b) Quite different from this is the use of the verb 'to remember* 
in which a person is said to have remembered, or been recollecting, 
something at a particular moment, or is said to be now 
recalling, reviewing or dwelling on some episode of his own past. 
In this use, remembering is an occurrence; it is something which a 
person may try successfully, or in vain, to do; it occupies his attention 
for a time and he may do it with pleasure or distress and with ease 
or effort. The barrister presses the witness to recall things, where the 
teacher trains his pupils not to forget things. 

Recalling has certain features in common with imagining. I 
recall only what I myself have seen, heard, done and felt, just as 
what I imagine is myself seeing, hearing, doing and noticing things; 
and I recall as I imagine, relatively vividly, relatively easily and 
relatively connectedly. Moreover, much as I imagine things 
sometimes deliberately and sometimes involuntarily, so I recall 
things sometimes deliberately and sometimes involuntarily. 

There is an important connection between the notion of not- 
forgetting and the notion of recollecting. To say that a person 
either actually is recalling something, or can recall, or be 
reminded of it, implies that he has not forgotten it; whereas to say 
that he has not forgotten something does not entail that he ever 
does or could recall it. There would be a contradiction in saying 
that I can or do recollect the incidents that I witnessed taking place 
at a picnic, though I no longer know what occurred there. There is 
no contradiction in saying that I know when I was born, or that I 
had my appendix removed, though I cannot recall the episodes. 
There would be an absurdity in saying that I do or can recall 
Napoleon losing the Battle of Waterloo, or how to translate English 
into Greek, though I have not forgotten these tilings ; since these are 
not the sorts of things that can be recalled, in the sense of the verb 
in which what I recall must be things that I have myself witnessed, 
done or experienced. 

Theorists speak sometimes of memory-knowledge, memory- 
belief and the evidence of memory, and, when discussing the 
'sources' of knowledge and the ways by which we come to know 


things, they sometimes talk as if memory were one such 'source* 
and as if remembering were one such way of coming to know things. 
Memory is, accordingly, sometimes ranged alongside of perception 
and inference as a cognitive faculty or power; or remembering is 
ranged alongside of perceiving and inferring as a cognitive act or 

This is a mistake. If a witness is asked how he knows that 
something took place, he may reply that he witnessed it, or that he 
was told of it, or that he inferred to it from what he witnessed or 
was told. He could not reply that he found out what took place 
either by not forgetting what he had found out, or by recalling 
finding it out. Reminiscence and not-forgetting are neither 'sources' 
of knowledge, nor, if this is anything different, ways of getting to 
know. The former entails having learned and not forgotten; the 
latter is having learned and not forgotten. Neither of them is a 
sort of learning, discovering or establishing. Still less is recalling 
what took place using a piece of evidence from which certain or 
probable inferences are made to what took place, save in the sense 
that the jury may infer from what the witness narrates. The witness 
himself docs not argue 'I recall the collision occurring just after 
the thunder-clap, so probably the collision occurred just after the 
thunder-clap'. There is no such inference; and even if there were, 
the good witness is one who is good at recollecting, not one who 
is good at inferring. 

Certainly the witness may be forced to admit, even to his 
surprise, that he must have been drawing on his imagination, since, 
for one reason or another, he could not have been recalling what he 
professed to be recalling; in other circumstances he may volunteer 
that he himself has doubts whether he is recalling, or making things 
up. But it does not follow from the fact that alleged reminiscences may 
be fabrications that veracious reminiscences are discoveries or successful 
investigations. A person who is asked to tell what is known of 
the Milky Way, or to draw a map of the rivers and railways of 
Berkshire, may say and draw things which he does not know to 
represent the facts, and he may be surprised to find that he has been 
doing this, or be uncertain whether he is doing it. But no one 
thinks that telling and drawing are 'sources' of knowledge, ways of 
finding things out, or bits of evidence from which discoveries can 
be made by inference. Telling and drawing things are, at best, 


ways of conveying lessons already learned. So is recalling a conning 
of something already learned. It is going over something, not 
getting to something ; it is like recounting, not like researching. 
A person may recall a particular episode twenty times in a day. 
No one would say that he twenty times discovered what happened. 
If the last nineteen reviewings were not discoveries, nor was the 

The stock accounts given of reminiscence give the impression 
that when a person recalls an episode belonging to his own past 
history, the details of the episode must come back to him in 
imagery. He must 'see' the details 'in his mind's eye', or 'hear' them 
'in his head'. But there is no 'must' about it. If a concert-goer 
wishes to recellect just how the violinist misplayed a certain piece, 
he may whistle the bungled tune, or play it on his own fiddle just 
as the artist had done it; and, if he repeats the mistake faithfully, 
he is certainly recollecting the artist's error. This might be his 
only way of recalling how the artist had gone wrong, since he may 
be poor at going over tunes in his head. Similarly a good mimic 
might recapture the preacher's gestures and grimaces only by 
reproducing them with his own hands and on his own face, since he 
may be poor at seeing things in his mind's eye. Or a good draughts- 
man may fail to recollect the lines and the rigging of a yacht, until 
he is given a pencil with which to delineate them on paper. If their 
mimicries and delineations are good and if, when they go wrong, 
their authors duly correct them without being prompted, their 
companions will be satisfied that they have recollected what they 
had seen, without desiring any additional information about the 
vividness, copiousness or connectedness of their visual imagery or 
even about its existence. 

No one would say that the concert-goer, the mimic or the 
draughtsman had got to know anything by reproducing the 
misplayed tune, the preacher's gestures, or the lines of the yacht, 
but only that they had shown how the tune had been heard to be 
misplayed, how the preacher had been seen to gesticulate and how 
the yacht had been seen to be shaped and rigged. Reminiscence in 
imagery does not differ in principle, though it tends to be superior 
in speed, if otherwise greatly inferior in efficiency; and it is, of 
course, of no direct public utility. 

People are apt grossly to exaggerate the photographic fidelity 


of their visual imagery. The main reason for this exaggeration seems 
to be that they find that very often, particularly when suitably 
prompted and questioned, they can give very comprehensive, 
detailed and well-ordered verbal descriptions of episodes at which 
they have been present. They are then tempted to suppose that, 
since they can describe such bygone episodes nearly as well now as 
they could have done during their occurrence, they must be checking 
their narratives against some present replicas or souvenirs of the 
vanished scene. If a description of a face is about as good in the 
absence as in the presence of the face, this must be due to the presence 
of something like a photograph of the face. But this is a gratuitous 
causal hypothesis. The question, 'How can I faithfully describe 
what I once witnessed?' is no more of a puzzle than the question, 
'How can I faithfully visualise what I once witnessed ?' Ability to 
describe things learned by personal experience is one of the knacks 
we expect of linguistically competent people; ability to visualise 
parts of it is another thing that we expect in some degree of most 
people and in high degree of children, dress-designers, policemen and 

Reminiscing, then, can take the form of faithful verbal narration. 
When it does so, it differs from reminiscence by mimicry and 
reminiscence by sketching inasmuch as what took place is told and 
not portrayed (though the telling often embodies some dramatic por- 
trayal as well). Clearly, here, too, no one would wish to speak as if 
narration were either a 'source* of knowledge, or a way of acquiring 
knowledge. It belongs not to the stages of manufacture and 
assembly, but to the stage of export. It is akin not to learning 
lessons, but to reciting them. 

People are, however, strongly tempted to think that vivid 
visual recall must be a sort of seeing and therefore a sort of finding. 
One motive of this mistake may be brought out as follows. If 
a person learns that a naval engagement has taken place, without 
himself having been a witness of it, he may deliberately or 
involuntarily picture the scene in visual imagery. Very likely 
he soon settles down to picturing it in a fairly uniform way 
whenever he thinks of the battle, much as he is likely to settle down 
to describing the episode in a fairly uniformly worded narrative, 
whenever he is called on to tell the story. But though he cannot, 
perhaps, easily help picturing the scene in his now routine manner, 


still he recognises a difference between his habitual way of picturing 
scenes of which he was not a witness and the way in which 
unforgotten episodes of which he was a witness 'come back* to 
him in visual imagery. These, too, he cannot help picturing in a 
uniform way, but their uniformity seems to him compulsory and 
not merely settled by repetition. He cannot now c see' the episode 
as he pleases, any more than he could originally have seen it as 
he pleased. He could not originally have seen the thimble elsewhere 
than on the corner of the mantelpiece, since that is where it was. 
Nor, however hard he tries, can he now recall seeing it elsewhere, 
for all that he can, if he likes, imagine seeing it lying in the scuttle. 
Indeed he may well imagine seeing it in the scuttle, while 
repudiating someone else's allegation that that is where it was. 

The reader of a report of a race can, subject to certain restrictions 
imposed by the text of the report, first picture the race in one way 
and then deliberately or involuntarily picture it in a different and 
perhaps conflicting way; but a witness of the race feels that, while 
he can call back further views of the race, yet alternative views are 
rigidly ruled out. This is what makes it tempting to say that 
reminiscence by imaging has in it something analogous to scanning 
a photograph, or to listening to a gramophone record. The 
'cannot' in 'I cannot "see" the episode save in one way' is tacitly 
assimilated to the mechanical 'cannot' in 'the camera cannot 
lie', or in 'the record cannot vary the tune'. But in fact the 'cannot', 
in 'I cannot "see" the episode save in one way' is like that in 'I 
cannot spell "Edinburgh" as I like'. I cannot write down the 
correct letters in the correct order and at the same time be writing 
down any other arrangement of letters; I cannot be spelling out 
'Edinburgh' as I know it should be spelled out and also be spelling 
it out in any other way. Nothing forces my hand to spell it in one 
way rather than another; but simple logic excludes the possibility 
of my both producing what I know to be the required spelling 
and producing an arbitrary spelling in one and the same operation. 
Similarly, nothing forces me to do any picturing at all, or to do my 
picturing in this way rather than that; but if I am recalling how the 
scene looked when I witnessed it, then my picturing is not arbitrary. 
Nor in making my way from tfte gravel-pit to the bathing-place 
am I forced to take this rather than any other footpath. But if I 
know that this is the right path, then I cannot, in logic, both take 


the path known to be the correct one and also take any other path. 

Consider again the case of the concert-goer who reproduces 
the violinist's mistake by whistling the bars as the violinist had 
misplayed them. The only sense in which he 'has' to whistle as he 
does, is that he will not be reproducing the violinist's mistake if he 
whistles anything else. He whistles what he whistles because he has 
not forgotten what he heard the violinist do. But this is not a cause- 
effect 'because'. His whistling is not causally controlled or governed 
either by the violinist's misperformance, or by his own original 
hearing of it. Rather, to say that he has not forgotten what he heard 
is to say that he can do some such things as faithfully reproduce 
the mistake by whistling it. As long as he continues to bear in 
mind the violinist's mistake, he continues to be able and ready to do 
some such things as to show what the mistake was by faithfully 
re-performing it. This is what is meant by 'bear in mind'. 

If a child is set to recite a poem, but gets it wrong, or partly 
wrong, we do not say that he has recited the poem. Nor is a mis- 
quotation a sort of quotation. If we are told that someone has 
spelled or construed something, we do not ask, 'But did he get it 
right?', since it would not be spelling or construing if it were 
misspelling or misconstruing. But of course there do exist uses of 
these verbs in which they have the same force as the phrases 'try to 
spell', or 'try to construe'. In these uses they can be significantly 
qualified by 'unsuccessfully'. 

'Recall', save when it means 'try to recall', is in the same way a 
'got it' verb. 'Recall unsuccessfully' and 'recall incorrectly' are 
illegitimate phrases. But this does not mean that we have a privileged 
faculty which, given its head, carries us to our destination without 
our having to be careful. It means only that if, for example, we 
picture incidents otherwise than as we know they looked, then we 
are not recalling, any more than we are quoting, if we ascribe other 
words to a speaker than those which we know he uttered. Recalling 
is something which we sometimes have to try hard and which we 
often fail to bring off; and very often we do not know whether 
we have brought it off or not. So we may claim to have recalled 
something and later be persuaded to withdraw the claim. But 
though 'recall' is a 'got it Verb, it 'is not a verb of finding, solving 
or proving. Rather, like 'reciting', 'quoting', 'depicting' and 
'mimicking', it is a verb of showing, or is at least affiliated to such 


verbs. Being good at recalling is not being good at investigating, 
but being good at presenting. It is a narrative skill, if 'narrative* be 
allowed to cover non-prosaic as well as prosaic representations. 
That is why we describe recollections as relatively faithful, vivid 
and accurate and not as original, brilliant or acute. Nor do we call 
people 'clever' or 'observant' merely because things come back to 
them well. An anecdotalist is not a sort of detective. 



(1) Foreword. 

So far I have said little positive about Reason, the Intellect or the 
Understanding, about thought, judgment, inference or conception. 
Indeed, what little I have said has largely been of a deflationary 
tendency, since I have repeatedly argued against the common 
assumption that the use of such epithets as 'purposive', 'skilful', 
'careful', 'ambitious' and 'voluntary' entails, as a causal pre-rcquisite, 
the occurrence of cogitative or theorising operations. I have probably 
left the impression that since planning and theorising operations 
can themselves be characterised as purposive, skilful, careful, ambi- 
tious, voluntary and the rest, I regard these operations merely as 
special occupations on all fours with such occupations as tying knots, 
following tunes or playing hide-and-seek. 

Such a democratisation of the offices of the old elite will have 
seemed all the more shocking, since there exists a widespread habit 
of using 'mind' and 'mental' as synonyms of 'the intellect' and 
'intellectual'. It is quite idiomatic to ask an examiner what sort of a 
mind a candidate has, when all that is wanted is to be told how 
well he can tackle certain sorts of academic tasks. The questioner 
would be surprised to be answered that the candidate was fond of 
animals, bashful, musical and witty. 

It is now time to discuss certain features of the concepts of 
specifically intellectual powers, propensities and performances. It 
will be found that these have indeed a primacy of a certain sort, 
though not that causal anteriority which is commonly postulated 
for them. 

(2) The Demarcation of the Intellect* 

The place of the intellect in human life is apt to be described, 
with or without consciousness of metaphor, after certain models. 



Sometimes the Intellect is talked of as a special organ, and strong 
or weak intellects are assimilated to strong or weak eyes and biceps. 
Sometimes the Understanding is talked of as a sort of publishing 
firm or mint which issues its products via the retail traders and 
banks to the customers. And sometimes Reason is talked of as a 
sapient lecturer or magistrate, who tells his audience from his place 
in its midst what he knows, commands and recommends. We need 
not trouble, now, to argue that these and kindred models are unsuited 
to provide the terms on which our discussions are to be hinged. 
But there is one underlying promise made by all these models of 
which we need to be suspicious from the start. We can tell pretty 
exactly what are the things which strength or weakness of eyes and 
biceps enables us to do, or prevents us from doing; we can tell just 
which products are issued, and which are not issued, by this publishing 
firm and that mint; and we can tell just what was, and what was not, 
imparted by a particular lecturer in a particular lecture. But if 
asked just which human actions and reactions should be classed as 
intellectual, we have no similar criteria. Mathematical calculation 
should certainly be so classed, but what if it is full of mistakes and 
lucky guesses, or is done by sheer rote? Forensic argumentation, 
but what if its motive is the desire to make the worse seem the better 
cause ? Philosophising, but what if the thinking is wishful ? The 
collection and colligation of facts, but what if their collection is 
jackdaw-like and their colligation fanciful? 

On some accounts it is a defining property of intellectual 
operations that they are governed by the purpose of discovering 
truth. But bridge and chess are intellectual games in which the 
purpose of performing the required intellectual operations is victory 
and not discovery. The engineer and the general plan with their 
heads, but they do not aim at adding to knowledge. The legislator 
has to think in abstract terms and in a systematic way, but his 
labours issue not in theorems but in Bills. Conversely, the 
reminiscences of the aged may pile up into formidable bodies of 
truths, but we hesitate to class these recollections as exercises of 
more than minimal intellectual powers. The aged do not think out 
what once happened; it just comes back to them. Nor do we 
ordinarily regard the observant child's incessant discoveries of 
things by eye, ear, nose, tongue and fingers as exercises of intellectual 
powers. He does not win scholarships by them. 


Nor are the boundaries between what is and what is not intel- 
lectual made much clearer by referring to the notion of thinking, 
since 'thinking' is not only just as vague as 'intellectual', but also 
has extra ambiguities of its own. In one sense, the English verb 
'think' is a synonym of 'believe' and 'suppose' ; so it is possible for 
a person, in this sense, to think a great number of silly things, but, 
in another sense, to think very little. Such a person is both credulous 
and intellectually idle. There is yet another sense in which a person 
may be said to be 'thinking hard what he is doing', when he is 
paying close heed to, say, playing the piano; but he is not ponder- 
ing or being in any way pensive. If asked what premisses he had 
considered, what conclusions he had drawn or, in a word, what 
thoughts he had had, his proper answer might well be, 'None. I had 
neither the time nor the interest to construct or manipulate any 
propositions at all. I was applying my mind to playing, not to 
speculating on problems, or even to lecturing to myself on how to 

It is sometimes said that by an 'intellectual process' or by 
'thinking', in the special sense required, is meant an operation with 
symbols such as, par excellence, words and sentences. 'In thinking 
the soul is talking to itself. But this is both too wide and too narrow. 
A child reciting by pure rote a nursery rhyme, or the multiplica- 
tion-table, is going through a sort of expression-wielding process, 
but he is not attending to what his words and sentences mean; 
he is not using his expressions, but parroting them, as he might 
parrot a tune. Nor yet will it do to say that a thinker is a person 
who operates purposefully and attentively with expressions; for if 
a jigsaw puzzle was constructed out of fragments of a once-learned 
foreign nursery rhyme, a child might work hard and efficiently 
at rearranging them in their proper order, though he had 
no idea what the sentences of the rhyme meant. It will not 
do even to say that thinking consists in constructing complexes 
of expressions as vehicles of specific meanings, for we allow 
that a person is thinking who is merely following ex- 
pressions delivered by someone else. He is not putting his 
own ideas into words but getting ideas from someone else's 

On the other hand, we have to allow that a person is doing 
genuine intellectual work in some situations where no expressions 


at all are being used, whether woras, code-symbols, diagrams or 
pictures. Tracing out the intricacies of a tangled skein of wool, 
studying the position of the game on the chessboard, and trying to 
place a piece of a jig-saw puzzle, would usually be allowed to be 
cogitation, even though unaccompanied by any self-colloquy. 

Lastly, to apply a point made earlier, the distinction between 
unstudied and studied utterance becomes of importance here. In 
the greater part of our ordinary sociable chat we say the first things 
that come to our lips without deliberating what to say, or how to 
say it; we are confronted by no challenge to vindicate our state- 
ments, to elucidate the connections between our utterances, or to 
make plain the purport of our questions, or the real point of our 
coaxings. Our talk is artless, spontaneous and unweighed. It is not 
work and it is not meant to edify, to be remembered, or to be 
recorded. None the less our remarks have their points and the 
listener understands them and responds appropriately. 

Yet this is not the sort of talk we have in mind when we speak 
of someone judging, pondering, reasoning or thinking something 
out. We do not judge a person's intellectual powers by most of the 
ways in which he chats. We judge them rather by the ways in which 
he talks when his talk is guarded, disciplined, and serious, uttered 
in his on-duty tone of voice and not in any of his off-duty tones 
of voice. We do, however, judge a person's intellectual potentiali- 
ties partly by the jokes he makes and appreciates even though 
these belong to his out-of-school conversations. Theorists arc 
inclined to assume that the differences between unstudied chat 
and weighed discourse is one only of degree, so that the things that 
come straight to our lips reflect the same sorts of intellectual pro- 
cesses as those reflected by seriously delivered pronouncements. But 
in practice we consider only the latter when assessing a person's 
judiciousness, acumen and grasp. So in practice we do not regard 
all intelligent expression-using as thinking but only or chiefly that 
which is done as work. We do not regard unstudied chat as low-level 
theorising or planning, and we are quite right not to do so. It is 
not the object of ordinary chat to advance anyone's theories or 
plans. Nor do we regard strolling and humming as gentle toil. 
But, after all, does it matter if all attempts at giving a hard-edged 
definition of 'intellectual' and 'thought' break down somewhere or 
other? We know well enough how to distinguish urban from rustic 


areas, games from work, and spring from summer, and are 
unembarrassed by the discovery of undecidable marginal cases. We 
know that solving a mathematical problem is an intellectual task, 
hunting the thimble is a non-intellectual task, while looking for an 
apposite rhyme is a halfway house. Bridge is an intellectual game, 
Snap an unintellectual game and Beggar-my-neighbour is betwixt 
and between. Our daily use of the concepts of the intellect and of 
thought is unembarrassed by the discovery of a moderate number 
of borderline cases. 

Certainly for some purposes this does not matter. But it does 
matter a lot to us. It means that the same thing is wrong both 
with the older theories which spoke of Reason, the Intellect or the 
Understanding as a specific Faculty or occult organ, and with the 
newer theories which speak of the specific intellectual processes of 
judging, conceiving, supposing, reasoning and the rest. They are 
pretending to have identification-marks for things which they 
cannot in fact always identify. We do not always know when to 
apply, and when not to apply, the trade-names of epistemology. 

Let us start again. There is one idea not far from the forefront 
of most people's minds when they contrast intellectual powers and 
performances with other powers and performances, namely that of 
schooling. The intellectual powers are those which are developed 
by set lessons and tested by set examinations. Intellectual tasks are 
those or some of those which only the schooled can perform. 
Intellectuals are persons who have profited from the highest 
available education, and intellectual talk is edified and edifying talk. 
Native or untutored knacks are not classed with intellectual pro- 
ficiencies, and even arts learned mainly by sheer imitation, like 
skipping, playing Snap and chatting, are not spoken of as intellectual 
accomplishments. This certificate is reserved for exploitations of 
lessons learned at least in part from books and lectures, or, in general, 
from didactic discourse. 

It is clear (i) that no one could follow or use didactic discourse 
who had not already learned to follow and use conversational talk, 
and (2) that didactic discourse is itself a species of studied discourse. 
It is discourse in which schooling is given, and it is discourse which 
is itself in some degree the product of schooling. It has its own drills 
and it is spoken or written not in the sociable, conversational, but 
in the non-sociable, drill style. It is delivered magisterially. Even if a 


bright conversational style is affected, a merely conversational 
reception of it is known to be inappropriate, so the conversational 
style is recognised to be fraudulent. The teacher is only pretending 
that she and the pupils are not really working. We shall see later 
that behind this seemingly trivial way of demarcating what is 
intellectual from what is not, in terms of the academic machinery 
by which certain things come to be learnt, there lies something very 

It is now necessary to discuss some of the concepts of thought 
and thinking. We must distinguish clearly between the sense in 
which we say that someone is engaged in thinking something out 
from the sense in which we say that so and so is what he thinks, 
i.e. between the sense of 'thought' in which thought can be hard, 
protracted, interrupted, careless, successful or unavailing from the 
sense in which a person's thoughts are true, false, valid, fallacious, 
abstract, rejected, shared, published or unpublished. In the former 
sense we are talking about work in which a person is at times and 
for periods engaged. In the latter sense we are talking about the 
results of such work. The importance of drawing this distinction 
is that the prevalent fashion is to describe the work of thinking 
things out in terms borrowed from descriptions of the results 
reached. We hear stories of people doing such things as judging, 
abstracting, subsuming, deducing, inducing, predicating and so 
forth, as if these were recordable operations actually executed by 
particular people at particular stages of their ponderings. And, since 
we do not witness other people in the act of doing these things, or 
even catch ourselves in the act of doing them, we feel driven to 
allow that these acts are very subterranean happenings, the occur- 
rences of which are found out only by the inferences and divinations 
of expert epistemologists. These experts seem to tell us that we do 
these things somewhat as anatomists tell us of the digestive and 
cerebral processes that go on inside us without our knowledge. 
So our intellects must be fleshless organs, since these para- 
anatomists find out so much about their clandestine functionings. 

I hope to show that the words judgment', 'deduction', 'abstrac- 
tion' and the rest belong properly to the classification of the products 
of pondering and are mis-rendered when taken as denoting acts of 
which pondering consists. They belong not to the vocabulary of 
biography but to the vocabulary of reviews of books, lectures, 


discussions and reports. They are referees' nouns, not biographers* 

(3) The Construction, Possession and Utilisation of Theories. 

Although there are plenty of avocations, both games and work, 
which we describe as intellectual without implying that their 
purpose is to discover truths, there are good reasons for giving 
early consideration to that special family of avocations in which 
we are concerned to discover truths. I say 'family of avocations', 
since nothing is to be gained by pretending that Euclid, Thucydides, 
Columbus, Adam Smith, Newton, Linnaeus, Porson and Bishop 
Butler were all in partnership. 

The work for which each of these men got his reputation can 
be called the work of 'theory building', though the word 'theory' 
has widely different senses. Sherlock Holmes' theories were not 
built by the same methods as those of Marx, nor were the uses or 
applications of them similar to those of Marx. But both were alike 
in delivering their theories in didactic prose. 

Before we say anything more specific about the operations or 
processes of building theories we should consider what it means to 
say that someone has a theory. Building a theory is trying to get 
a theory, and to have a theory is to have got and not forgotten it. 
Building a theory is travelling; having a theory is being at one's 

To have a theory or a plan is not itself to be doing or saying 
anything, any more than to have a pen is to be writing with it. 
To have a pen is to be in a position to write with it, if occasion 
arises to do so; and to have a theory or plan is to be prepared 
either to tell it or to apply it, if occasion arises to do so. The work of 
building a theory or plan is the work of getting oneself so prepared. 

I say that the possessor of a theory is prepared to state it or 
otherwise apply it. What is this distinction? To be in a position to 
tell a theory is to be able to give a good answer to someone, the 
theorist himself maybe, who wants or needs to learn, or learn better, 
what the theory is, i.e. to deliver, by word of mouth or in writing, 
an intelligible statement of the conclusions of the theory, the 
problems which they solve and perhaps also the reasons for accepting 
these and rejecting rival answers. Having a theory involves being 
able to deliver lessons or refresher-lessons in it. The intelligent 


recipient of such lessons comes himself to have the theory or else, 
if he is sophisticated enough, to grasp without adopting it. But we 
do not build theories, any more than we build plans, merely or 
primarily in order to be equipped to tell them. The chief point of 
giving didactic exercises to oneself, or to other pupils, is to prepare 
them to use these lessons for other than further didactic ends. 
Columbus did not explore only to add to what was recited in geo- 
graphy lessons. Having a theory or plan is not merely being able to 
tell what one's theory or plan is. Being able to tell a theory is, in fact, 
being able to make just one, namely the didactic exploitation of it. 
Mastery of Euclid's theorems is not merely ability to cite them; it 
is also ability to solve riders to them, meet objections to them and 
find out the dimensions of fields with their aid. 

There is no single-track answer to the question, 'How is a theory 
turned to accounts other than didactic accounts?' Sherlock 
Holmes' theories were primarily intended to be applied in the 
apprehension and conviction of criminals, the thwarting of planned 
crimes and the exculpation of innocent suspects. They might also 
have been intended to be used as instructive examples of effective 
detection-techniques. His theories were applied, if further deductions 
were actually made from them, and if criminals were arrested and 
suspects released in accordance with them. Newton's theories were 
used when correct predictions and retrodictions were made on the 
basis of them, when machines were designed in accordance with 
them, when the hope of building perpetual-motion machines was 
given up, when some other theories were abandoned, or else were 
codified with his, when books were produced and lectures delivered 
enabling students to grasp the whole or parts of his theories and, 
lastly, when some or all of his theory-building techniques were 
learned from his example and successfully applied in new investiga- 
tions. To be a Newtonian was not just to say what Newton had 
said, but also to say and do what Newton would have said and done. 
Having a theory is being prepared to make a variety of moves, 
only some of which are teachings; and to teach something to 
someone, oneself or another, is, in its turn, to prepare him 
for a variety of tasks, only some of which will be further teachings. 

We might say, therefore, that^n theorising the soul is, inter alia, 
preparing itself to talk or write didactically; and that the intended 
benefits to the recipient consist of acquired preparednesses to act and 


react in various new ways, only some of which will themselves be 
further didactic pronouncements. This shows part of what is 
wrong with the notion of Reason as the power merely to give and 
receive didactic talks. But some of the operations learned certainly 
will be further didactic talkings, since at least one thing that is 
learned in listening attentively to didactic talking is how to say just 
those same things, or things to the same effect, or at least how to 
talk in that manner. At the very least the recruit learns the words 
of command and how N.C.O.s deliver them. A lesson in anything 
is also a lesson in giving and receiving lessons of that sort. Galileo, 
in teaching about the behaviour of stars, pendulums and telescopes, 
also taught by his example how to talk scientifically about any other 

To come now to the work of building theories. First, I am not 
restricting this phrase to those operations which, like mathematics, 
jurisprudence, philology and philosophy, can be done in an arm- 
chair or at the desk. Columbus could not have given his account 
of the west side of the Atlantic without voyaging thither, nor could 
Kepler have given his account of the solar system, unless he and 
Tycho Brahe had spent weary hours visually studying the heavens. 
None the less we distinguish the theories, which they finally built 
and then taught to the educated world by word of mouth or in 
print, from the exertions and observations without which they 
would not have built those theories. The formulations of their 
theories embody reports of, or references to, the courses set and the 
observations made, but they do not embody the courses set, or the 
observations themselves. The results of research can be delivered 
in prose, but researching docs not generally consist only in 
operating with pens, but also in operating with microscopes and 
telescopes, balances and galvanometers, log-lines and litmus-papers. 

Next, in talking of building theories I am not referring only to 
the classical examples of famous discoveries but to a class of tasks 
in which all people who have had any education participate in 
some degree on some occasions. The housewife trying to find out 
whether a carpet will fit a floor is engaged in an unambitious task 
of theorising. She is investigating something and the results of 
her investigations will be statable. Both what she reports to her 
husband and what she does with the carpet will show what theory 
she has reached, since her morning's work with tape-measure, pencil 


and paper was preparing her both to lay the carpet this way round 
and not that, and to tell her husband that the carpet will go there 
that way round, since the shape and size of the floor and of the 
carpet are so and so. I am also using the word 'theory' to cover the 
results of any kind of systematic inquiry, whether or not these 
results make up a deductive system. An historian's account of the 
course of a battle is his theory. 

If a farmer has made a path, he is able to saunter easily up and 
down it. That is what the path was made for. But the work of 
making the path was not a process of sauntering easily, but one of 
marking the ground, digging, fetching loads of gravel, rolling and 
draining. He dug and rolled where there was yet no path, so that 
he might in the end have a path on which he could saunter without 
any more digging or rolling. Similarly a person who has a theory 
can, among other things, expound to himself, or the world, the 
whole theory or any part of it; he can, so to speak, saunter in prose 
from any part to any other part of it. But the work of building the 
theory was a job of making paths where as yet there were none. 
The point of the analogy is this. Epistemologists very frequently 
describe the labours of building theories in terms appropriate only 
to the business of going over or teaching a theory that one already 
has ; as if, for example, the chains of propositions which constitute 
Euclid's 'Elements' mirrored a parallel succession of theorising 
moves made by Euclid in his original labours of making his 
geometrical discoveries; as if, that is, what Euclid was equipped to 
do when he had his theory, he was already equipped to do when 
constructing it. But this is absurd. On the other hand, epistemolo- 
gists sometimes tell the opposite story, describing what Euclid did 
in delivering his theories when he had them, as if it was some 
recrudescence of the original theorising work. This, too, 
is absurd. These epistemologists describe using a path, as if it 
were a piece of path-making; the others describe the path-making, 
as if it were a piece of path-using. 

Now just as the farmer, in toiling at making paths, is preparing 
the ground for effortless sauntering, so a person in toiling at 
building a theory is preparing himself for, among other things, the 
effortless exposition of the theorift which he gets by building them. 
His theorising labours are self-preparations for, among other 
things, didactic tasks which are not further self-preparations, but 


preparations of other students. Naturally there are halfway houses* 
There is a stage at which a thinker has his theory, but has not yet 
got it perfectly. He is not yet completely at home in it. There are 
places where he sometimes slips, stumbles and hesitates. At this 
stage he will go over his theory, or parts of it, in his head, or on 
paper, not yet with the ease begotten by much practice, nor with the 
trouble that it had cost him to do the original building. He is like 
the farmer, whose path is still sufficiently rough to require him to 
tread up and down it somewhat heavy-footedly, in order to smooth 
out some remaining inequalities of the surface. As the farmer is 
both half-sauntering and still preparing the ground for more 
effortless sauntering, so the thinker is both using his near-mastery 
of his theory and still schooling himself to master it perfectly. 
Telling himself his theory is still somewhat toilsome and one of the 
objects of this toil is to prepare himself for telling it without toil. 
Now when we are told that a proper use of an indicative 
sentence reflects an act of judging', or 'making a judgment', and 
that a proper use of an indicative sentence embodying conjunctions 
like 'if', 'so' and 'because' reflects an act of 'reasoning', 'inferring' 
or 'drawing a conclusion from premisses', we ought to ask whether 
these proper uses of such indicative sentences are supposed to occur, 
when their user is building his theory, or whether they arc supposed 
to occur, when he already has his theory and is delivering it in didactic 
prose, spoken or written, with the facility borne of adequate prac- 
tice. Are conceptions, judgments and inferences or, compendiously, 
thoughts, path-making moves, or are they a certain class of path-using 
moves, namely path-showing or path-teaching moves? Are they 
steps and stages in learning something, or are they bits of the lesson 
that we teach, on demand, when we have learned it? It is a truism 
to say that the expert who is thoroughly at home with his theory 
expounds the several elements of it with complete facility; he is not 
now having to study what to say, or else he could not be described as 
being thoroughly at home with his theory. He is going over old 
ground and not now breaking new ground. But this ready and 
orderly delivery of simple and complex indicative sentences is 
quite unlike those perplexed, tentative and laboured wrestlings and 
wrigglings which had constituted the probably protracted building of 
his theory. These were what had prepared and trained him to be 
able ultimately to give this ready delivery of the elements of his 


theory. So we ought to decide whether the required acts of 
conceiving, making judgments and drawing conclusions from 
premisses are to be looked for in the theorist's earlier exploratory, 
or in his resultant expository, activities, in his acquiring knowledge, 
or in his telling what he knows. Is it in the detective's reports, or in 
his investigations, that we are supposed to find his judgments and 
his inferences? 

I say that we ought to pose this question, but in fact 
cpistemologists tend not to realise that such a question exists. What 
they commonly do is to classify the elements of doctrines didactic- 
ally expounded by theorists already at home in them, and to postu- 
late that counterpart elements must have occurred as episodes in 
the work of building those theories. Finding premisses and con- 
clusions among the elements of published theories, they postulate 
separate, antecedent, 'cognitive acts' of judging; and finding argu- 
ments among the elements of published theories, they postulate 
separate antecedent processes of moving to the 'cognising' of con- 
clusions from the 'cognising' of premisses. I hope to show that 
these separate intellectual processes postulated by epistemologists 
are para-mechanical dramatisations of the classified elements of 
achieved and expounded theories. 

It is not being denied that our theorising labours do incorporate 
a lot of soliloquy and colloquy, a lot of calculating and miscal- 
culating on paper and in our heads, a lot of diagram-sketching 
and erasing on the blackboard and in our minds' eyes, a lot of 
interrogating, cross-examining, debating and experimental 
asseverating; and certainly some of these pieces of expression- 
using operate, not as self-addressed interim reports of sub-theories 
already built or grasped, but as parts of the exercises by which we 
prepare ourselves for getting theories which we have not yet got. 
I say, for example, a lot of things tentatively; I roll them on my 
tongue and, if there seems any promise in them, I repeat them again 
and again in a rehearsing frame of mind, so as to get myself used 
to the ideas; thus I prepare myself by practice to work with them 
later on, if they turn out well, or else to wean myself from them for 
good, if they turn out ill. I give myself tutorial behests, reproaches, 
commendations and encouragements, and I put to myself searching 
and leading questions in a magisterial tone of voice to keep myself 
from shirking dull or difficult problems. But expressions like these, 


used in these ways, cannot be described as expressing judgments or 
inferences, in the sense of being didactic expositions of conclusions 
reached, or arguments mastered. They will not, for the most part, 
appear in the publication of the theory, when and if this is arrived 
at; any more than the teacher's blue- and red-pencilled scorings, 
ticks, exclamation-marks, queries and reminders in the margins of 
his pupils' essays will be reproduced in the pupils' final statements of 
the theory. They are parts of the scaffolding which theorising 
uses, not parts of the edifice in which successful theorising results. 
Nor are recruit drill orders shouted aloud, or said in their heads, 
by trained soldiers on the battlefield. 

(4) The Application and Misapplication of Epistemological Terms. 

The glossary of terms in which intellectual powers and operations 
are traditionally described contains such words and phrases as 
judgment', 'reasoning', 'conception', 'idea', 'abstract idea', 'concept', 
'making judgments', 'inferring', 'drawing conclusions from 
premisses', 'considering propositions', 'subsuming', 'generalising', 
'inducing', 'cognition', 'apprehension', 'intuition', 'intellection' and 
'discursive thinking'. Such expressions are employed, not indeed by 
the laity but by theorists, as if with their aid, and not easily without 
it, correct descriptions can be given of what has at a particular 
moment been occupying a particular person; as if, for example, 
John Doe could and should sometimes be described as having 
woken up and started to do some judging, conceiving, subsuming 
or abstracting; as spending more than three seconds in entertaining 
a proposition, or in moving from some premisses to a conclusion; 
or as sitting on a fence, alternately whistling and deducing; or as 
having had an intuition of something a moment before he coughed. 

Probably most people feel vaguely that there is a tinge of 
unreality attaching to such recommended biographical anecdotes. 
John Doe's own stories about himself are not expressed in such 
terms, or in terms easily translatable into them. How many cognitive 
acts did he perform before breakfast, and what did it feel like to do 
them ? Were they tiring ? Did he enjoy his passage from his premisses 
to his conclusion, and did he make it cautiously or recklessly? Did 
the breakfast bell make him step short halfway between his 
premisses and his conclusion? Just when did he last make a judgment, 
or form an abstract idea, what happened to it when he had made or 


formed it and who taught him how to do it? Is conceiving a quick 
or a gradual process, an easy or difficult one, and can he dawdle 
over it or shirk doing it? About how long did it take him to consider 
the proposition and was the spectacle in the later stages of the 
^consideration like or unlike that in the initial stages ? Was it rather 
like gazing blankly at something, or more like detailed scrutiny? 
He does not know how to begin to answer such questions. These 
questions which he answers easily and confidently about the inci- 
dents in his life which he does report, he cannot answer at all about 
the sorts of incidents which epistemologists suggest that he must be 
able to report. 

Moreover these postulated cognitive acts and processes are said 
to take place behind locked doors. We cannot witness them taking 
place in John Doe's life. He alone could report their occurrence, 
though unfortunately he never does divulge any such things. Nor, 
however well indoctrinated, do we ourselves ever divulge any such 
things. And the reason why such episodes never are divulged is 
clear. Biographical anecdotes told in these idioms are myths, 
which means that these idioms, or some of them, have their proper 
applications, but are being misapplied, when used in anecdotes about 
what people are at a particular moment doing or undergoing. So 
what is their proper application? And what is wrong with their 
employment in descriptions of what people do and undergo ? 

If we read a scientist's printed treatise, or a detective's typewritten 
report, or listen to an historian's lecture on a campaign, we are indeed 
presented with arguments, which can be called 'inferences' or 
'reasonings', with conclusions, which can be called Verdicts', 
'findings' or judgments', with abstract terms, which can be said to 
signify 'abstract ideas' or 'concepts', with class-membership 
statements, which can be said to be or signify 'subsumptions', and 
so on. The comparative anatomy of the limbs, joints and nerves of 
the statements of built theories is a proper and necessary branch of 
study, and the terms in which it classifies these elements are 
indispensable for the discussion of the truth and consistency of 
particular theories and for the comparison of the methods of 
different sciences. 

But then we shall be asked, 'A^hy, if it is legitimate to characterise 
pieces of published theories in such idioms, is it not also legitimate 
to describe in corresponding idioms corresponding pieces of 


theorising? If the printed statement of a theory embodies the 
printed statements of some premisses and conclusions, why should 
we not say that the thinking out of the theory embodied corres- 
ponding premiss-cognising and conclusion-cognising acts? If 
there is an argument in a book, must there not have been a corres- 
ponding piece of implication-cognising in the biography of 
the thinker who discovered what the book tells? If a detective's 
report contains an abstract term like 'alibi*, must there not have 
taken place in the course of his investigations an internal episode of 
having the corresponding abstract idea of Alibi? Surely theories 
printed in books, or delivered in lecture-halls, are like the footprints 
left by the previous tread of a foot. It is legitimate to apply directly 
some of the predicates of a footprint to the foot that printed it, and 
to infer from some of the other predicates of the footprint to some 
different but co-ordinate predicates of the foot; so why should we 
not in the same way characterise the theorising operations of the 
theorist by predicates transferred or inferred from those of his 
handiwork? From what other causes could these effects have come?' 

This last question, which I have tendentiously put into the 
mouths of the champions of the tradition that I am criticising, 
shows, I think, the nature of the myth. It is a variant of the old 
causal myth that we have already considered and rejected. It is the 
para-mechanical hypothesis applied specifically to the separable 
slices of didactic prose which enter into the statements of theories. 

There must occur, so the argument might run, special internal 
processes of abstraction, subsumption and judgment, for of what 
else could the abstract terms of published theories, their class-mem- 
bership phrases and their conclusions be the effects? There must occur 
private operations of discursive thinking, for what else could cause 
passages of significant prose ^ appear in public lectures or in print? 
Or, to put this para-mechanical point in terms of the favoured verb 
'to express', there must be mental acts of passing from premisses to 
conclusions, since the 'because' and 'so' sentences which feature in 
the statements of theories are significant and therefore express 
counterpart cogitative operations in the theorist's mind. Every 
significant expression has a meaning, so when an expression is 
actually used, the meaning of it i&ust have been occurring some- 
where, and it can have been occurring only in the form of a thought 
that took place in the speaker's or writer's private stream of 


consciousness. Presumably, if epistemologists had paid as much 
attention to arithmetical and algebraical reckonings as they have 
to geometrical demonstrations, they would, in consistency, have 
used analogous arguments to prove the occurrence, behind our 
postulated Iron Curtains, of mental processes of adding, subtracting, 
multiplying and dividing, and we should have been told that, 
besides such mental acts as conception, judgment and inference, 
there are also the cognitive acts of adding, subtracting and equating. 
We might even have been credited with one Faculty of Long 
Division and another of Quadratic Equations. Of the exercises of 
what other mental powers could our pencilled long-division sums 
and our dictated quadratic equations be the outward expressions? 

With the general defects of the para-mechanical hypothesis we 
need no longer concern ourselves. But we should attend to certain 
specific points that arise in its application to intellectual operations. 
First, while it is certainly true, because tautologous, to say that 
properly used significant expressions have their particular meanings, 
this does not warrant us in asking, 'When and where do these 
meanings occur ?' A bear may be now being led about by a bear- 
leader, and a footprint must once have been imprinted by a particular 
foot, but to say that an expression has a meaning is not to say that 
the expression is on a lead held by a ghostly leader called a 'meaning' 
or a 'thought', or that the expression is a public trace left behind 
by an unheard and invisible step. To understand an expression is 
not to infer an unwitnessable cause. The very fact that an 
expression is made to be understood by anyone shows that the 
meaning of the expression is not to be described as being, or 
belonging to, an event that at most one person could know anything 
about. The phrase 'what such and such an expression means' does 
not describe a thing or happening at all, and a fortiori not an occult 
thing or happening. 

Next, the suggestion that, for a person wittingly to use a 
significant word, phrase or sentence, there must antecedently or 
concomitantly occur inside him a momentary something, some- 
times called 'the thought that corresponds with the word, phrase or 
sentence*, leads us to expect that this supposed internal occurrence 
will be described to us. But* when descriptions are proffered, 
they seem to be descriptions of ghostly doubles of the words, 
phrases or sentences themselves. The 'thought' is described as if it 


were just another more shadowy naming, asserting or arguing. 
The thought that is supposed to bear-lead the overt announcement 
'{Tomorrow cannot be Sunday, unless today is Saturday* turns 
out to be just the announcement to oneself that tomorrow cannot 
be Sunday without today being Saturday, i.e. just a soliloquised 
or muttered rehearsal of the overt statement itself. We certainly 
can, and often do, rehearse in our heads or sotto voce what we are 
then going to tell the audience, or write down on foolscap. But 
this makes no theoretical difference, as the same supposed question 
again arises, 'In what does the significance of this soliloquised 
or muttered expression consist? In yet another 'thought to corres- 
pond' going on in yet another still more twilit studio? And 
would this in its turn be just another rehearsed announcement?' 
To say something significant, in awareness of its significance, is not 
to do two things, namely to say something aloud or in one's head 
and at the same time, or shortly before, to go through some other 
shadowy move. It is to do one thing with a certain drill and in a 
certain frame of mind, not by rote, chattily, recklessly, histrionically, 
absent-mindedly or deliriously, but on purpose, with a method, 
carefully, seriously and on the qui vive. Saying something in this 
specific frame of mind, whether aloud or in one's head, is thinking 
the thought. It is not an after-effect of thinking the thought, such 
that the author might conceivably have thought the thought, but 
shirked saying the thing to himself, or to the world. But, of course, 
he might have thought the same thought, saying a different thing, 
since he might have uttered a sentence to the same effect in a different 
language, or in a different form of words in the same language. 
Knocking in a nail is not doing two things, one with a hammer 
and another without a hammer, for all that just brandishing a 
hammer unskilfully, carelessly or aimlessly does not get nails 
knocked in, and for all that the carpenter could have knocked in 
his nail with another hammer instead of with this one. 

So when a person has, or is at home with, a theory and is, 
therefore, prepared, among many other things, to deliver to himself 
or to others a didactic statement of it, he is ipso facto prepared 
to deliver the required premiss-sentences, conclusion-sentences, 
narrative-sentences and arguments, together with the required 
abstract nouns, equations, diagrams, imaginary illustrations and so 
forth. And when called on to give such an exposition, he will at 


particular moments be actually in process of deploying these 
expressions, in his head, or viva voce, or on his typewriter, and he 
may and should be doing this with his mind on his job, i.e. purpose- 
fully, with method, carefully, seriously and on the qui vive. He 
will be talking or writing, heeding what he is saying. So we can 
say, if we like, that since he is at particular moments heedfully 
deploying his abstract terms, premiss-sentences, conclusion-sen- 
tences, arguments, graphs, equations, etc., he is then and there 
'thinking' what they mean. To say this is perfectly legitimate, but 
it is slightly hazardous, since the present participle 'thinking* is 
liable to tempt us to suppose that he is being the author of two 
processes, one probably overt process of saying or typing con- 
catenated phrases and sentences, and another, necessarily covert 
shadow-process of having or producing some ghostly harbingers of 
those sayings and writings, namely some 'ideas' or judgments' or 
'inferences' or 'thoughts', 'cognitive acts' of which his vocal and 
manual acts of saying and writing are the mere 'expressions' or 
'footprints'. And this is just the temptation that is yielded to by 
those who describe theorising activities as internal foreshadowings 
of the prose-moves made in the didactic telling of an achieved 

This brings us back to our earlier question, whether we are 
supposed to look for the supposed acts of judging', 'having abstract 
ideas', 'inferring' and the rest in the theorist's exploratory, or in his 
expository operations. Are they supposed to be manifested in his 
saying things, when he knows what to say, or in his travailings, when 
he does not yet know what to say, since he is still trying to get 
this knowledge? When he is exercising acquired facilities, or when he 
is still in difficulties? When teaching how or when learning how ? 
I think it is clear, without much more argument, that didactic 
expositions of arguments with their conclusions and their premisses, 
of abstract ideas, of equations, etc., belong to the stage after arrival 
and not to any of the stages of travelling thither. The theorist can 
impart his lessons, because he has finished learning them. He can 
use his equipment, because he is at last equipped. It is just because 
the pathmaking is over that he is able to saunter on the paths that 
he had laboured to construct fey: that purpose; or it is just because 
the arduous weapon-training is at last completed that he can now 
without any difficulties handle his weapons. His 'thoughts' are what 


he has now got; they are not the toils without which he would not 
have got them. 

If we are to use at all the odd expression 'making a judgment*, 
we must say that the detective makes the judgment that the game- 
keeper killed the squire, only when he is putting into indicative prose 
a piece of the theory that he now has, and that he keeps on making 
this judgment as often as he is called upon to tell this part of his 
theory, whether to himself, to the reporters or to Scotland Yard. 
And then we shall refrain from talking as if a separate antecedent 
act of making this judgment had occurred as a part of his investiga- 

So if we like to reserve the word 'thinking', in the sense of 
'thinking out*, for some of the preparatory pondering labours 
without which he would not have got his theory, then that thinking 
cannot be described as consisting of, or containing, the making of 
any judgments, save in so far as he may have settled some sub- 
theories en route, which he was accordingly prepared to deliver to 
himself, to the reporters, or to Scotland Yard in interim reports. 
Travelling to London does not consist of jobs done in London, or of 
rehearsals of the interviews which may be held there. 

Doubtless in the course of his inquiries the detective may have 
spurred on and directed his efforts by putting to himself the 
interrogation 'Was it the gamekeeper who killed the squire?' But 
an interrogative sentence, so used, is not a conclusion-teaching 
sentence but a conclusion-hunting directive. He asks it, because 
there is something he has not established, not because there is 
something that he is prepared to tell, because he has established it. 

Doubtless, again, he may tentatively announce to himself or to 
Scotland Yard 'It might have been the gamekeeper*. But not only 
would this not pass for an act of making the judgment, or reporting 
that the gamekeeper did kill the squire, but, anyhow in certain 
junctures, it would have to be taken as the interim report of a 
sub-theory already built and occupied, and therefore no longer 
under construction. 

'Well', it may be conceded, 'perhaps there is something wrong 
with the idea that theorising ought to be described as consisting 
of, or containing, 'acts of judging*. Certainly a theorist cannot 
tell things, before he can tell them; he cannot declare his findings, 
while still investigating. Trials terminate in verdicts; they do 


not consist of them. But what about inferring? Surely it is part 
of the very notion of a rational being that his thoughts sometimes 
progress by passages from premisses to conclusions ? It must therefore 
sometimes be true of any rational being, John Doe, say, that he is at 
a particular moment moving to a conclusion from some premisses, 
even though he is strangely embarrassed at being asked whether he 
enjoyed his trips the last three times he made such passages, 
how long they took him, whether he dawdled over them, whether 
he inferred hard or idly and whether lie ever stopped halfway 
between premisses and conclusions/ 

It is certainly true that John Doe may, on finding or being 
told certain things, then tell himself and us consequential truths 
which had not occurred to him before. Discoveries are often made 
by inference. But not all arguing is discovering. The same argument 
can be used by the same person time and time again, but we should 
not say that he repeatedly made the same discovery. The detective 
was, perhaps, given certain clues on Tuesday and at some moment 
on Wednesday he says to himself for the first time 'it could not 
have been the poacher, so it was the gamekeeper who killed the 
squire'. But when reporting his results to his superiors he need not 
say in the past tense 'On Wednesday afternoon I argued that the 
gamekeeper killed the squire'; he may say 'From these clues I 
conclude that the gamekeeper killed the squire', or 'From these 
clues it follows that he was the murderer', or 'The poacher did not, 
so the gamekeeper did kill the squire'. He may say this several times 
to his slow-witted superior, and later say it again several times in 
Court. Each time he is using his argument, drawing his conclusion, 
or making his inference. These descriptions are not reserved for 
the one occasion when the light burst upon him. 

Nor need there have been any occasion on which the light burst 
upon him. It might well be that the idea that the gamekeeper 
was the murderer had already occurred to him and that the new 
clues seemed at first to have only a slight pertinence to the case. 
Perhaps during some minutes or days he considered and recon- 
sidered these clues, and found that the loopholes they seemed to 
leave became gradually smaller and smaller until, at no specifiable 
moment, they dwindled away* altogether. In such a situation, 
which was the situation of all of us when we began to study the 
proof of Euclid's first theorem, the force of the argument does 


not flash, but only dawn, upon the thinker, much as the meaning 
of a stiff piece of Latin unseen does not flash, but only dawns, 
upon the translator. Here we cannot say that at such and such 
a moment the thinker first drew his conclusion, but only that, after 
such and such a period of chewing and digesting, he was at last 
ready to draw it in the knowledge that he was entitled to do so. 
His mastery of the argument came gradually, like all masteries 
which involve learning by practice; but when it was achieved, he 
was then ready to state the whole argument without hesitation or 
qualms, to state it as often as might be necessary and to state it in a 
variety of alternative phrasings. 

This familiar fact that before we can use an argument readily 
we have to acquire mastery of it by more or less gradual practice is 
apt to be obscured by the logicians' habit of adducing for their 
examples specimens of completely hackneyed arguments. An 
argument is hackneyed, when practice with it or its kin has long 
since prepared us to use it unhesitatingly and without qualms. The 
force of a hackneyed argument is immediately obvious for the same 
reason that the meaning of a Latin sentence is immediately obvious 
when we are quite used both to its vocabulary and to its syntax. 
They leap to the eye or flash upon us now, but it was not so once. 
Nor is it so now, when we are confronted by arguments, or Latin 
sentences, of which we have never met even the brothers or the 

So far from it being true that 'inference' denotes an operation 
in which a discovery is made, an operation, therefore which could 
not be repeated, we mean by 'inference' an operation which the 
thinker must be able to repeat. He has not got hold of an argument, 
unless he can wield it and its brothers on all sorts of occasions and 
in various formulations. It is not enough that a new and true idea 
should once occur to him on once receiving a piece of information. 
If he is to merit the description of having deduced a consequence 
from premisses, he must know that acceptance of those premisses 
gives him the right to accept that conclusion; and the tests of 
whether he does know this would be other applications of the 
principle of the argument, though he would not, of course, be 
expected to name or to formulate 'that principle in abstracto. 

We must, therefore, distinguish learning to use a particular 
argument, or to use any arguments of a certain family, from 


learning new truths by using such an argument. The more prompt 
the latter is the better, probably, is our mastery of the argument. 
But our acquisition of this mastery may well have been gradual 
and perhaps all the more sure for having been gradual. If a person 
shows that he can use the argument by actually using it properly 
in the discovery of a new truth, he shows also that he can use this 
same argument for a variety of ends other than that of solving his 
own momentary queries. Having an argument, like having a pen, 
a theory or a plan, is different both from getting it and from using 
it. Using it entails having it and having it involves having got, and 
not lost, it. But, unlike some sorts of theories and plans, argu- 
ments are not mastered merely by absorbing information, nor is 
mastery of them lost through shortness of memory. They are more 
like skills. Practice is necessary for mastering them and even long 
desuetude is seldom sufficient for forgetting how to work them. 
By 'practice' I refer not to the special exercises given to the few by 
instructors in logic, but to the ordinary exercises taken by everyone 
in everyday discussion and reading, as well as to the more academic 
exercises given to nearly everyone in the classroom. 

An argument is used, or a conclusion drawn, when a person says 
or writes, for private or public consumption, 'this, so that', or 
'because this, therefore that', or 'this involves that', provided that he 
says or writes it knowing that he is licensed to do so. This saying or 
writing in this frame of mind is, of course, a mental, indeed an 
intellectual act, since it is an exercise of one of those competences 
which are properly ranked as 'intellectual'. But this is not to say 
that it is a 'mental act' in the sense that it is performed behind the 
scenes. It may be done in silent soliloquy, but it may just as well be 
done aloud, or in ink. Indeed we expect to find a thinker's most 
subtle and most careful arguments, where we expect to find a 
mathematician's best calculations and demonstrations, namely in 
what he submits in print for the criticism of his colleagues. We 
know what to suspect if a thinker boasts that he has a good argument 
which he will not or cannot publish. 

This brings us to another point. We saw that there was some 
sort of incongruity in describing someone as being at a time and 
for a period engaged in passing from premisses to a conclusion. 
'Inferring' is not used to denote either a slowish or a quickish 
process. 'I began to deduce, but had no time to finish' is not the 


sort of thing that can significantly be said. In recognition of this 
sort of incongruity, some theorists like to describe inferring as an 
instantaneous operation, one which, like a glimpse or a flash, is 
completed as soon as it is begun. But this is the wrong sort of 
story. The reason why we cannot describe drawing a conclusion 
as a slowish or quickish passage is not that it is a 'Hey, presto' 
passage, but that it is not a passage at all. A person may be quick 
or slow to reach London, solve an anagram or checkmate the 
opposing king; but reaching a conclusion, like arriving in London, 
solving an anagram and checkmating the king, is not the sort 
of tiling that can be described as gradual, quick or instantaneous. 
We can ask how long it took to run a race, but not how long 
it took to win it. Up to a certain moment the race was still in 
progress; from that moment the race was over and someone 
was the victor. But it was not a long or short moment. Coming 
into possession of a piece of property is another instance of the same 
kind. The preliminary negotiations may take a long or a short time, 
but the passage from not yet owning the article to being its owner 
is neither as quick as a lightning flash nor as protracted as the dawn. 
'Passage' was a misleading metaphor. It is equally misleading when 
used to describe the change that occurs when a person conies into 
possession of a truth for which he has been for a long or a short time 

When a person has got an argument, his first or his fiftieth 
deployment of it in speech or writing certainly takes time. He may 
gabble it very fast to himself and drawl it rather slowly over the 
telephone. The delivery of an argument may take seconds or hours. 
Often we use the verb 'argue', though seldom the verbs 'infer', 
'deduce' or 'draw conclusions', for the process of delivering an 
argument. In this use we can say that the speaker was interrupted 
half-way between stating his premisses and stating his conclusions, 
or that he got from his premisses to his conclusions much faster 
today than he did yesterday. Similarly a stammerer may take a long 
time telling a joke. But we do not ask how long it took him to 
make the joke. Nor do we ask how long a thinker spent in arriving 
at, as distinct from travelling towards, his conclusion. 'Conclude', 
'deduce' and 'prove', like 'checkmate', 'score', 'invent' and 'arrive', 
are, in their primary uses, what I have called 'got it' verbs, and 
while a person's publications, or other exploitations of what he has 


got, may take much or little time, his transition from not yet having 
got it to having now got it cannot be qualified by epithets of rapidity. 
When a person uses these verbs in the timeless present tense, as 
in 'I conclude*, 'he deduces' or 'we prove', he is using them in a 
sense derivative from their primary sense. They do not directly 
report gettings, but something nearer akin to possession. 

The traditional assumption that inference-verbs denote processes 
or operations required its makers to say, first, that the processes or 
operations were of lightning rapidity and, second, that their 
occurrence was the impenetrable secret of their author. The argu- 
ments he produced in discussions, or in print, were mere 'expressions' 
of his own privy operations and mere spurs to kindred privy 
operations on the part of their recipients. Misconstruing referees' 
verbs as biographers' verbs leads inevitably to demanding double-life 

The epistemology of ratiocination has, with many other branches 
of epistemology, been handicapped by allegiance to a special 
superstition, the superstition that the theorising operations which 
it is trying to describe ought to be described by analogies with 
seeing. It takes as its standard model the prompt, effortless and 
correct visual recognition of what is familiar, expected and sunlit, 
and makes no mention of the belated and hesitant recognition, or mis- 
recognition, of what is strange, unexpected or moonlit. Furthermore, 
it takes as its model what is denoted by the visual achievement verb 
'see', and not what is denoted by the visual task words 'peer', 
'scrutinise' and 'watch'. Thinking things out is described as consisting, 
at least partly, of consecutive 'seeings' of implications. But this is 
to describe theorising work by analogies with what is not work 
but achievement; or it is to describe what are actually more 
or less difficult self-schoolings by analogies with achievements, 
which are effortless, just because a long run of previous 
efforts has long since inculcated complete facility in making 
them. It is like describing a journey as constituted by arrivals, 
searching as constituted by findings, studying as constituted by 
examination triumphs, or, in a word, trying as constituted by 

It is true that quite often implications are immediately obvious, 
in something like the ways in which jokes and cows are often 
immediately obvious. Just as we do not, in ordinary favourable 


circumstances, have to study at all in order to make out that the 
creature in the meadow is a cow, so, in favourable circumstances, 
we do not have now to study at all in order to be ready to say, for 
example, 'then tomorrow is Boxing Day' on being reminded that 
today is Christmas Day. Here we already enjoy full familiarity, 
either with the particular argument, or with a lot of its brothers and 
sisters. When an argument is itself hackneyed, or of a hackneyed 
sort, no present studying is needed, since those former encounters 
with it or its kin, which made it hackneyed, have already given us 
this preparation. Nor do we now have to cudgel our brains, when 
required to give the English for mensa. 

The same is true of seeing cows. Our recognition of them is 
nowadays effortless and instantaneous, just because the necessary 
preparatory studies which we went through in our infancy have 
long since made hackneyed the ordinary appearances of cows. So 
these favourite specimens of the effortless and instantaneous act of 
'seeing' that one truth follows from another show nothing about the 
process of learning how to use or follow arguments, since they are 
nothing but further instances of things done with complete facility by 
people who have already got by practice the knack of doing them. 

It is a curious fact that, though we make this metaphorical use 
of the verb 'to see' even more commonly in speaking of our 
instantaneous appreciation of jokes than we do in speaking of our 
instantaneous acceptance of arguments, no epistemologist has 
supposed that joking entails the prefatory occurrence of 'mental 
acts' of cognising the points of jokes, as they commonly do suppose 
that using arguments presupposes prefatory 'mental acts' of 'seeing' 
implications. Perhaps this is only because Euclid's 'Elements' do not 
contain any jokes. But perhaps the reason is that it is patent that a 
piece of joke-seeing could not be a causal antecedent of joke-telling, 
i.e. that telling a joke is not 'expressing' an antecedent piece of 

I now want to show that using an argument does not 'express' 
an antecedent and 'internal' piece of implication-seeing. If 
someone tells a joke, it follows that he has got a joke to tell, and 
he can not only tell it over and over again, but also see its point, 
when someone else tells it. Similarly, if he uses an argument, it 
follows that he has got an argument to use and may not only produce it 
over and over again, but can also acknowledge its force, when someone 


else uses it. But the fact that ability to use an argument carries with 
it the ability to 'see* the implication, when someone else presents the 
argument to him, does not require that he is causally bound to do 
such a piece of 'seeing* just before, or just while, he himself uses the 
argument. The contemplative metaphor of 'seeing' implications or 
jokes, which is perfectly appropriate to certain special situations is, 
for that very reason, inappropriate to others. The jester's audience 
has indeed not made any jokes; it has only appreciated, or failed to 
appreciate, the jokes made by him. The audience has been receptive 
or unreceptive, discerning or undiscerning, quick or slow in the 
uptake; but it has not been either original or unoriginal, inventive 
or uninventive. It has found something funny, found it unfunny, or 
failed to find it funny; but it has not said or done anything funny or 
unfunny. Seeing jokes is the role of the audience, whereas making 
them is the job of the jester. The audience can be described in con- 
templative metaphors, but the jester must be described in executive 
terms. If no jokes were made, there would exist no jokes to be seen. 
For a repartee to be found amusing, a repartee must have been 
made. The jester himself cannot 'see' the humour of his repartee, 
until he has made it, though he can 'see' it, before he tells it to a 
larger audience. Seeing jokes presupposes the making of jokes, as 
art galleries presuppose easels and consumers presuppose producers. 
If the idioms of construction, execution, invention and production 
were not applicable to jesters, painters and farmers, the idioms of 
seeing jokes, appreciating pictures and consuming farm produce 
would be left without application. 

The same holds good in matters of theory. If proofs were not 
given, proofs could not be accepted; if conclusions were not drawn, 
there could be no allowing or disallowing of inferences; if statements 
were not made, there could be no acquiescing in statements. For 
one judge to concur in a verdict, another judge must have given a 
verdict. Or^ly constructed and delivered arguments can be examined 
and only when an inference has been at least mooted, can an 
implication be seen or missed. We do not first see an implication 
and then go on to draw a conclusion, any more than we first accept 
the solution of an anagram and then go on to solve it. Multiplications 
have to be done before they can*be marked 'correct'. 

This contrast between the uses of the contemplative and of the 
executive or constructive idioms in the description of intellectual 



work may be illustrated in another way. When children are given 
their elementary instruction in geometry, the proofs of the theorems 
are commonly presented to them printed in books, or written on 
the blackboard. The task of the pupils is to study, follow and 
acquiesce in those proofs. They learn by concurring. But when they 
are given their elementary instruction in arithmetic and algebra, 
they are set to work in quite a different way. They have to do their 
own adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. Nor do they 
study classical solutions of equations; they have to solve their 
own equations. They learn by operating. Consequently, while 
the contemplative idiom belongs naturally to the instruction and 
description of learners of geometry, it is the executive idioms which 
belong to the instruction and description of learners of arithmetic 
and algebra. Pupils are criticised for not being able to 'see' or 'follow* 
demonstrations, whereas they are criticised for not being able to 'do' 
long division or 'solve' quadratic equations. Similarly we talk of 
translations rather as being made or given, than as being allowed or 

Formal logic was, unfortunately, taught from the start in the 
esteemed geometrical manner, with the result that the epistemology 
of ratiocination and of intellectual work in general continues to be 
told chiefly in the contemplative idiom, that is, in terms appropriate 
to classrooms furnished with blackboard, but no pens or paper, instead 
of in terms appropriate to classrooms furnished with pens and paper, 
but no blackboard. We are given to understand that to 'cognise' 
is not to work something out, but to be shown something. Had 
arithmetic and chess been brought into the curriculum before 
geometry and formal logic, theorising work might have been 
likened to the execution of calculations and gambits instead of to the 
struggle for a bench from which the blackboard can be clearly seen. 
We might have formed the habit of talking of inference in the 
vocabulary of the football field, instead of in that of the grandstand, 
and we should have thought of the rules of logic rather as licenses 
to make inferences than as licenses to concur in them. It would 
not then have occurred to us that an act of internally 'seeing* an 
implication must be a prelude of using any argument; it would 
have been obvious, as is true, th*t a person can be described as 
'seeing' that one truth follows from another only when he hears 
or reads, perhaps in his head, the promulgated argument 'this, so 


that*, 'because this, therefore that', or the statement 'if this, then 

I shall discuss briefly one more instance of terminological 
malversation. There are certain kinds of expressions in regular use 
by both theorists and laymen which are properly and conveniently 
classified as 'abstract'. A mile is an abstraction, so are the National 
Debt, the Equator, the average taxpayer, the square root of 169, 
and Cricket. Every moderately educated person knows how to 
make intelligent use of a good many abstract terms and how to 
follow their use by others; he wields them, for the most part, 
unperplexedly, consistently and appropriately in general statements, 
homilies, questions and arguments. In certain junctures he recog- 
nises the utility of classifying such terms as 'abstract'. When his 
child asks him why the Equator is marked on the map, yet is 
invisible to the people who cross it, or how it is that cricket has been 
played in England for many years, though no cricket matches last 
more than three or four days, he is ready to answer or divert the 
question by saying that the Equator and Cricket are only abstract 
ideas. Saying this is to say, though the layman is unlikely to put 
it in this way, that statements, questions and arguments which 
incorporate abstract terms like 'the Equator', 'the average taxpayer' 
and 'Cricket' are on a higher level of generality than their syntax 
would suggest. They read as if they contained mentions of individual 
things, persons and matches, when in fact they refer, in different 
ways, to ranges of individually unmentioned things, persons and 

If a person is at a particular moment using an abstract term, 
using it significantly and using it knowing its significance, he can 
be said to be using an abstract idea, or even thinking an abstract 
thought, notion or concept. And from these innocuous, if infelicitous 
expressions, it has been easy to move to making such seemingly more 
profound and diagnostic statements as that his abstract term 
'expresses' the abstract idea that he is there and then having. Exciting 
questions then raise their heads. How and when did he form this 
abstract idea? Where has it been and what has it been doing in the 
period between his last and his present use of it? Is it somewhat like 
a badly blurred picture in the mind's eye, or is it more like a pack of 
clear mental pictures, each one of which differs slightly from its 
neighbours? That minds are the only warehouses which could 


possibly store such precious, if ethereal, articles would naturally not 
be in question. 

In real life no one ever tells this sort of story. No one refuses 
to join a game on the score that he is busy forming an abstract 
idea, or says that he finds conceiving concepts a harder or longer job 
than doing long division. No one says that he has just found an 
abstract idea, after having mislaid it for some weeks, or that his 
idea of the average taxpayer is not blurred enough, or, alternatively, 
not photographic enough, to do its job. No teacher bids his pupils 
to sit down and do some abstracting, or gives them good or bad 
marks for their exercises in such a task. No novelist depicts his 
hero as pluckily, briskly or half-heartedly abstracting. The verb 'to 
abstract' is clearly not a genuine biographical verb; it is therefore 
not a verb appropriate even to shadow biographies. 

Consider a new example. Geographical contours are certainly 
abstractions. The soldier finds nothing on the hillside answering 
to the 300-feet contour line on his map, in the way in which he does 
find rivers and roads answering to the map-symbols for rivers and 
roads. But though contour lines are abstract symbols, in a way in 
which symbols for rivers are not abstract, the soldier may know quite 
well how to read and use them. Identifying his coppice with a 
coppice marked on his map, he can tell how high above sea level 
he is, how high he must climb to reach the summit and whether he 
will be able to see the bridge over the railway when the fog lifts. 
He can draw a map with roughly judged contours, he can fix 
and keep rendezvous at points on given contours and he can talk 
sense about contours. So, startled though he would be by the allega- 
tion, he has the abstract idea of Contour. 

But in saying that he has this idea we are not saying that there 
exists an impalpable something which he and he alone can find if 
he turns his attention inwards. We are saying that he can execute, 
regularly executes, or is now executing, some of the tasks just 
described, together with an indefinite variety of kindred tasks. 

The question, 'How did he form this abstract idea?' becomes the 
question, 'How did he acquire this specific knack or competence?' To 
this question he himself can provide the answer. He was given 
lectures in map reading and map drawing; he was sent out over 
strange country with a compass and a map; he was told to notice 
how the wrack left behind by a recent flood had formed a line along 


the hillside twelve feet above the lake; he was asked what would be 
obscured and what would be left visible, if the flat-bottomed cloud 
sank to 300 feet above sea-level; he was ridiculed when he drew a 
map in which the contour lines were crossed or broken. It had 
taken him three weeks before he really knew the ropes. We could 
paraphrase this by saying that he was for three weeks forming the 
abstract idea of Contour. But it would be safer and more natural to 
say that it took him three weeks to learn how contour lines are 
read and used and how the word 'Contour' is used. The other 
description tempts one to suppose that throughout the period of 
three weeks something was being slowly distilled or concocted in 
his metaphorical insides, or that something rather like a negative 
was being gradually developed in a metaphorical dark room, 
even while he himself was occupied in football, eating and sleeping. 
'Contours are abstractions', or 'Contour lines are abstract 
map-symbols' is a proper and useful instruction for a map-referee 
to give to would-be readers and makers of maps. 'Contour lines 
are the outward expressions of the mapmakers' mental acts of 
conceiving heights (in feet) above sea-level' suggests that reading a 
map entails penetrating the impenetrable shadow-life of some 
anonymous surveyor. 

(5) Saying and Teaching. 

In this chapter, as well as elsewhere in this book, I have been at 
pains to distinguish different sorts of talk, the sociable, unstudied 
chat of slippered conversation, the guarded conversational talk of 
the reticent and insincere, and the studied, unconversational, shod 
talk of the instructor. In this chapter we have been particularly 
concerned with this last, namely the didactic discourse, written or 
spoken, published or self-addressed, in which a person teaches what 
he has to teach. The main reason for harping here upon the methods, 
ends and even tones of voice of didactic discourse is that it is in terms 
of didactic discourse that the concept of the intellect is being eluci- 
dated. At least an important part of what we mean by 'intellectual 
powers' is those specific capacities which are originally inculcated 
and developed predominantly by didactic discourse, and are them- 
selves exercised, inter alia, in teaching the same lessons or adaptations 
and expansions of them in further allocutions. Didactic discourse is 
the vehicle for the transmission of knowledge. 


But there is also a more general reason for discussing the different 
sorts of talk. Epistemologists have always been aware that there 
are some close connections between thought and speech, but their 
elucidations of these connections have been retarded by the tacit 
supposal that there exists some nuclear and homogeneous activity 
of saying things. They have used, without apparent qualms, verbs 
like 'state', 'propound', 'enunciate', 'declare', 'describe', 'assert', 
'express', 'tell', 'say' and 'discourse', as if they provided both a 
full and an unambiguous account of what a person is about, when he 
is described as doing one or other of these things. But there is no 
single-track or nuclear activity of just saying things. What is said 
is said either conversationally, or coaxingly, or reassuringly, or 
peremptorily, or entertainingly, or reproachfully, and so forth. 
Talking in a bargaining way is different from talking in a confessional 
way, and both are different from talking anecdotally, menacingly or 
provokingly. Even what we write is meant to be read in a special 
tone of voice, and what we say to ourselves in our heads is not 'said' 
in a monotone. 

Didactic speaking and writing is the species with which we are 
here concerned. It is talk in which, unlike most of the others, what 
we tell is intended to be kept in mind. Talk of most of the other 
kinds is not intended to be kept in mind, but responded to, or 
otherwise acted on straightway. Didactic talk, unlike most of 
the others, is meant to better the mind of the recipient, that is, to 
improve its equipment or strengthen its powers. Teaching is 
teaching someone to do, which includes to say, tilings, and what a 
pupil has been taught to do, he is expected to continue to be able to 
do for at least a fair time afterwards. Lessons are meant to be learned 
and not forgotten. In a word, teaching is deliberate equipping. Of 
course, not all teaching is done by talking didactically. Infants 
learn things by following examples which may, or may not, be 
deliberately set for their imitation. Some lessons are taught by 
deliberately setting examples and giving demonstrations. Some are 
taught by sheer drill, some by ridicule and so forth. 

Now didactic discourse, like other sorts of lessons, but unlike 
most of the other sorts of talk, is intended to be remembered, 
imitated and rehearsed by the recipient. It can be repeated without 
losing its point, and it is suitable for retransmission by word of 
mouth or in writing. Lessons so taught can be preserved, as lessons 


taught by demonstrations and examples cannot be preserved; they 
can therefore be accumulated, assembled, compared, sifted and 
criticised. Thus we can learn both what our grandfathers taught 
to our fathers and what our fathers added to, or modified, in the 
lessons they had been taught. The original discoveries by which 
they bettered their instructions can be embodied in the schooling 
of their sons, for it does not take genius to learn what it has taken 
genius to invent. Intellectual progress is possible just because the 
immature can be taught what only the mature could have found out. 
The sciences grow because the undergraduate can by suitable 
schooling be trained to start where Euclid, Harvey and Newton 
left off. 

Furthermore, didactic discourse is impersonal and untopical, in 
the sense that the lessons it delivers could be delivered by any 
suitably trained teacher to any suitably prepared recipient; and the 
occasions of delivering it are not fixed, as the occasions of delivering 
conversational, bargaining, reassuring, or prosecuting remarks are 
fixed, by non-recurrent situations. If a repartee, a traffic-signal or 
a promise is not made by a particular person to a particular person 
at a particular juncture, the opportunity for making it has gone for 
ever; but if John Doe missed yesterday's lesson on the Latin 
subjunctive, or failed to finish the chapter on the size and distance 
of the moon, there may be the same point as before in his reception 
tomorrow or next week of those same lessons. It will not escape 
those who are familiar with the philosophical discussions of the 
nature and status of what are called 'propositions', that the predicates 
by which propositions are described are just those which do belong 
ex officio to the jobs of didactic discourse and do not belong to 
repartees, limericks, queries, interjections, condolences, accusations, 
vows, behests, complaints, or any of the countless other sorts of 
non-didactic saying. It is no accident that some theorists like to 
define 'intellectual operations' as operations with propositions, 
or that other theorists like to define 'propositions' as the products 
or implements of intellectual operations. Both are implicitly 
referring to our lesson giving, lesson taking and lesson using 
activities and powers, without, of course, explicitly mentioning 
such vulgar matters. 

All talk is meant to exert some specific influence. A question 
is meant to be heard, understood and answered; an offer is meant 


to be considered and accepted; a threat is meant to deter; and a 
condolence is meant to give comfort. Didactic talk is meant to 
instruct. The swimming instructor says things to his pupils, but he 
is not primarily intending to get the pupil to say those same things. 
He intends him now to make the required strokes with his arms and 
legs and later to make strokes like these without the accompaniment 
of spoken or silent instructions. Ultimately, perhaps, the pupil will 
teach other novices to swim, or at least teach himself to make new 
strokes and to make the old strokes in more difficult conditions. 
Learning the imparted lesson is becoming competent, not merely 
or primarily to parrot it, but to do a systematic variety of other 
things. The same holds good of more academic lessons, like lessons in 
pronunciation, geography, grammar, style, botany, calculation 
and ratiocination. We learn from these lessons how to say and 
do things, most of which are not echoes of the words of the 

Didactic influence can be exerted not only by one person 
upon another but also by one person upon himself. He can coach 
himself to say and do things which are not echoes of the words in 
which that coaching is given. Just as he can give himself orders, 
which he then complies with in manual evolutions, so he can tell 
himself things which he then turns to account in new didactic 
moves. Having told himself that in the garage there are seven tins 
each containing two gallons of petrol, he can then tell himself that 
there are fourteen gallons of petrol in the garage. The activities 
which we call 'thinking things out', 'pondering', 'considering', 
'debating' and 'excogitating' are notoriously capable of being 
progressive. They can achieve new results. The answers to some, 
but not all, questions can be found out merely by private or inter- 
personal talking, provided that the talking is the right sort of talking 
and is carried on with some skill, industry and care. Jocose talking 
does not solve algebraical problems nor yet does a helter-skelter 
spate of algebraical expressions. 

When we comment on a person's intellectual proficiencies and 
limitations, the main things we have in mind are his efficiency and 
keenness in making such advances. It may be thought that in referring 
to the achievement of new results hy intellectual work I am talking 
simply of deduction, or more generally of inference. But this, 
though an important species, is not the sole species of progressive 


thinking. In multiplying and dividing we arrive by thinking at the 
previously unknown answers to questions, but we do not call those 
answers 'conclusions' ; nor do we call misreckonings 'fallacies'. The 
historian, having assembled a mass of relevant facts, has to think 
before he can give a coherent account of a campaign; but the 
coherence of his final account is a unity of quite a different kind from 
that of a chain of theorems. His account will contain a lot of 
inferences and it must be free from inconsistencies; but, to be good 
history, it must have other intellectual merits as well. Excellence in 
translation also requires careful thinking, but the rules and canons 
that have to be observed are not only rules of inference. Clumsiness 
in translation shows faulty, but not fallacious, thinking. No questions 
are begged nor middle terms undistributed, in the composition 
of a metrically incorrect sonnet. 

Thinking things out involves saying things to oneself, or to one's 
other companions, with an instructive intent. The assertion of each 
proposition is intended to equip or prepare the recipient to turn 
what he is told to further accounts, to use it, for example, as a 
premiss, or as a procedure maxim. As in the classroom, so in 
inter-personal discussion and in private excogitation, neither the 
teacher nor the learner is ever absolutely proficient, patient, 
energetic, alert or concentrated. The instruction may have to be 
repeated, rephrased, postponed or withdrawn; the recipient's 
responses may be wrong, off the track, faltering and perfunctory. 
Progress made on one day may on the next day seem to have been 
completely lost, and protracted bafflement may give place in a 
moment to forward strides which make the thinker wonder how a 
task so difficult yesterday was so easy today. Tomorrow, perhaps, 
he will complain that the results achieved have done nothing but 
set him further tasks as tough as any that he has yet overcome. He 
has, perhaps, found out a way of using yesterday's proposition as a 
premiss ; but the conclusion got today must in its turn be turned to 
some further premissory account. His results are always usable as 
lessons from which, with skill, work and luck, further results can 
be got. 

We see then that the well-known fact that pondering can be 
progressive, despite its consisting only in the serial production of 
seemingly inert sentences, is not inexplicable. Certain sorts of 
sentences, properly delivered and properly received, have an 


instructive effect. They teach us to do and say things which were not 
said or done in their delivery. Some thinkers have been puzzled by 
the question, 'How can a person get to know new things by dint of 
merely telling himself what he knows already?' They would not be 
puzzled by the question, 'How can a novice learn to make new and 
correct swimming strokes from listening to words from the 
instructor on the bank?' or even by the question, 'How can a novice 
learn to make new and correct swimming strokes from listening to 
words which he impresses on himself?' The question, 'How can a 
person learn to make new didactic strokes from listening to 
instructively intended pronouncements from his tutor, his colleague 
or himself?' is no more mysterious. 

(6) The Primacy of the Intellect. 

It is now easy to distinguish the sense in which intellectual 
operations are higher than, and do 'govern', the exercises of other 
mental capacities, from the sense in which I have denied that the 
occurrence of intellectual operations is implied in all those descrip- 
tions we give of people's actions and reactions which embody 
mental concepts. 

Intellectual work has a cultural primacy, since it is the work of 
those who have received and can give a higher education, education, 
namely, by didactic discourse. It is what constitutes, or is a sine qua 
non of, culture. To put it crudely, barbarians and infants do not do 
intellectual work, since, if they did, we should describe them instead 
as at least part-civilised and near to school age. There is a sort of 
contradiction in speaking of a quite unschooled intellect, unless one 
is referring to someone's capacity to profit by such schooling, but 
there is no contradiction in speaking of a quite unschooled mind 
The schooling of a person requires that he has already acquired the 
capacity to receive that schooling. Lectures cannot be followed, 
much less delivered, by persons who cannot yet use or follow 
artless talk. 

It is therefore absurd to speak as if such things as attending, 
trying, wanting, fearing, being amused, perceiving, bearing in mind, 
recollecting, purposing, learning, pretending, playing and chatting 
could occur only in obedience to ^didactically given instructions, 
whether from an internal or an external lecturer. This is, however, 
quite compatible with saying that some degree of intellectual 


accomplishment is a sine qua non of, for example, wanting to be a 
patent-lawyer, being amused at a witticism by Voltaire, bearing in 
mind the rules of Greek conditional sentences, or identifying a 
magneto, or a dividend warrant. Even so, to describe someone as 
doing something which he could not have done without formerly 
having had a certain education does not entail saying that he must 
have recited all or any of those early lessons just before he acted. 
I could not now read a Greek sentence, if I had not formerly learned 
Greek grammar, but I do not ordinarily have to remind myself of 
any rules of Greek grammar, before I construe a Greek sentence. I 
construe according to those rules, but I do not think of them. I 
bear them in mind, but I do not appeal to them, unless I get into 

There is a tendency among epistemologists and moralists to pre- 
tend that to have a mind is to have inside one, not merely poten- 
tially but actually, either one or two lecturers, Reason and 
Conscience. Sometimes Conscience is held to be just Reason talking 
in its sabbatical tone of voice. These internal lecturers are supposed 
already to know, since they are competent to teach, the things 
which their audience does not yet know. My Reason is, what I 
myself am not yet, perfectly rational and my Conscience is, what 
I am not yet, perfectly conscientious. They have not anything to 
learn. And if we asked, 'Who taught my Reason and who taught 
my Conscience the things that they have learned and not forgotten?' 
we should perhaps be told of corresponding instructors lodged 
inside their bosoms. There is, of course, a serious intention 
behind this nursery myth, just as there is a serious intention 
behind my flippant extension of it. It is quite true that when 
a child has part-learned something and learned it partly from the 
didactic discourses of his parents and schoolmasters, he has acquired 
some capacity and inclination to deliver refresher-lessons to 
himself in their magisterial tones of voice. He does not, in the 
stock situations, have to wonder what they would tell him, or 
what he should tell himself. He knows the hackneyed parts of his 
lessons well enough to deliver them unhesitatingly, appropriately 
and with the right gravity. And, when he does this, he does, if you 
like, 'hear the voice of Reasbn', or 'of Conscience', speaking 
authoritatively in accents which are a queer blend of, say, his 
father's and his own. He can easily give himself the instructions 


which he still finds it difficult to observe. His preaching is necessarily 
ahead of his practice, since the object of delivering didactic talks 
to him is to inculcate better practices in him by doing so. So at this 
stage he may have learned quite well how and when to tell himself 
to do things, though he has not yet learned very well how and when 
to do them. The corresponding thing may occur when he is 
wrestling with a piece of Latin prose. Experiencing difficulties with 
the syntax of his sentence, he may 'listen for' and 'hear' the appro- 
priate rule of syntax being dictated to him in a tone of voice which 
is half his own and half that of his schoolmaster. This voice might 
then be picturesquely described as 'the Voice of Latin Grammar'. 
But in this case the provenance of the Voice' would be too obvious 
for anyone to talk seriously of the original source of his grammatical 
scruples being the dictates of an angelic, internal philologist. 

This mention of conscience and of the knowledge of Latin 
grammar brings us back to a matter already mentioned but not 
yet discussed, namely to intellectual activities other than those of 
theorising. Grammatical knowledge is, for example, knowing how 
to compose and construe Latin sentences, and moral knowledge, 
if the strained phrase is to be used at all, is knowing how to behave 
in certain sorts of situations in which the problems are neither 
merely theoretical nor merely technical. Knowledge of chess or 
bridge is an intellectual accomplishment which is exercised in 
trying to win games; strategy is one which is exercised in trying 
to win battles and campaigns; the engineer's schooling and workshop 
experience teach him to design bridges and not, save per acddens, 
to build or expound theories. 

The reason why we call such games and work 'intellectual' is 
not far to seek. Not only the education necessary for mastering 
the arts, but also many of the operations necessary in the practice 
of them are homogeneous with those required for, and in, tasks 
of building, expounding and applying theories. The ability to 
compose and construe Latin sentences is an art, while the philology 
of the Latin tongue is a science; but the teaching and practising 
of the one coincides with a part of the teaching and applying of 
the other. Engineering does not advance physics, chemistry or 
economics; but competence at engineering is not compatible with 
complete innocence of those branches of theory. If not the calcula- 
tion, at least some estimation, of probabilities is an integral part of 


playing the more intellectual card games, and this is part of our 
reason for describing them as 'intellectual'. 

It is easy to see that intellectual development is a condition of the 
existence of all but the most primitive occupations and interests. 
Every advanced craft, game, project, amusement, organisation or 
industry is necessarily above the hqjads of untutored savages and 
infants, or else we could not call it 'advanced'. We do not have to be 
scientists in order to solve anagrams, or play whist. But we have to be 
literate and be able to add and subtract. 

(7) Epistemology. 

Before concluding this chapter, we must consider an academic 
and departmental matter. A part of philosophy is traditionally 
called 'theory of knowledge', or 'epistemology'. Our present 
question is, 'What sorts of theories about knowledge should 
epistemologists try to build, given that we have found something 
radically wrong with important parts of the theories which they 
have hitherto offered ? If the whole imposing apparatus of terms 
like 'idea', 'conception', judgment', 'inference' and the rest has 
been wrongly transferred from the functional descriptions of the 
elements of published theories to the description of acts and pro- 
cesses of building theories, what is left of the theory of knowledge? 
If these terms do not denote the hidden wires and pulleys by 
which intellectual operations were wrongly supposed to work, 
what is the proper subject matter of the theory of knowledge?' 

The phrase 'theory of knowledge' could be used to stand for 
either of two things, (i) It might be used to stand for the theory of 
the sciences, i.e. the systematic study of the structures of built 
theories. (2) Or it might be used to stand for the theory of learning, 
discovery and invention. 

(i) The philosophical theory of the sciences or, more generally, 
of built theories, gives a functional account of the terms, statements 
and arguments as well as of the numerous other kinds of expressions 
which enter into the formulation of the theories. It could be called 
'the Logic of Science' or, metaphorically, 'the Grammar of Science'. 
(But 'science' should not be used so parochially as to exclude 
theories unpatronised by the Rsyal Society.) This sort of account 
does not describe or allude to episodes in the lives of individual 
scientists. It does not therefore describe or allude to any supposed 


private episodes in those lives. It describes in a special manner what 
is, or might be, found in print. 

(2) As there do exist the practice and the profession of teaching, 
there could exist a branch of philosophical theory concerned with 
the concepts of learning, teaching and examining. This might be 
called 'the philosophy of learning', 'the methodology of education' 
or, more grandly, 'the Grammar of Pedagogy'. This would be the 
theory of knowledge in the sense of being the theory of getting to 
know. This study would be concerned with the terms in which 
certain episodes in the lives of individuals are described and 
prescribed for by teachers and examiners. 

Now the great epistemologists, Locke, Hume and Kant, were 
in the main advancing the Grammar of Science, when they thought 
that they were discussing parts of the occult life-story of persons 
acquiring knowledge. They were discussing the credentials of sorts 
of theories, but they were doing this in para-physiological allegories. 
The recommended restoration of the trade-names of traditional 
epistemology to their proper place in the anatomy of built theories 
would have a salutary influence upon our theories about minds. 
One of the strongest forces making for belief in the doctrine 
that a mind is a private stage is the ingrained habit of assuming that 
there must exist the 'cognitive acts' and 'cognitive processes' which 
these trade-names have been perverted to signify. So, since none 
of the things which we could witness John Doe doing were the 
required acts of having ideas, abstracting, making judgments or 
passing from premisses to conclusions, it seemed necessary to locate 
these acts on the boards of a stage to which only he had access. 
The wealth of convincing biographical detail given in the 
epistemologists' allegories has been, at least in my own case, what 
gave one of the two strongest motives for adhering to the myth 
of die ghost in the machine. The imputed episodes seemed to be 
impenetrably 'internal' because they were genuinely unwitnessable. 
But they were genuinely unwitnessable because they were mythical. 
They were causal hypotheses substituted for functional descriptions 
of the elements of published theories. 



(i) The Programme of Psychology. 

IN the course of this book I have said very little about the science 
of psychology. This omission will have appeared particularly 
perverse, since the entire book could properly be described 
as an essay, not indeed in scientific but in philosophical 
psychology. Part of the explanation of the omission is this. I 
have been examining the logical behaviour of a set of concepts 
all of which are regularly employed by everyone. The concepts of 
learning, practice, trying, heeding, pretending, wanting, pondering, 
arguing, shirking, watching, seeing and being perturbed are not 
technical concepts. Everyone has to learn, and does learn, how to use 
them. Their use by psychologists is not different from their use by 
novelists, biographers, historians, teachers, magistrates, coastguards, 
politicians, detectives or men in the street. But this is not the whole 

When we think of the science or sciences of psychology, we 
are apt, and often encouraged, to equate the official programmes of 
psychology with the researches that psychologists actually carry on, 
their public promises with their laboratory performances. Now 
when the word 'psychology' was coined, two hundred years ago, 
it was supposed that the two-worlds legend was true. It was supposed, 
in consequence, that since Newtonian science explains (it was 
erroneously thought) everything that exists and occurs in the physical 
world, there could and should be just one other counterpart science 
explaining what exists and occurs in the postulated non-physical 
world. As Newtonian scientists studied the phenomena of the one 
field, so there ought to be scientists studying the phenomena of 
the other field. 'Psychology' was supposed to be the title of the one 
empirical study of 'mental phenomena'. Moreover, as Newtonian 



scientists found and examined their data in visual, auditory and tactual 
perception, so psychologists would find and examine their counter- 
part data by counterpart, non-visual, non-auditory, non-tactual 

It was not, of course, denied that there existed and could exist 
plenty of other systematic and unsystematic studies of specifically 
human behaviour. Historians had for two thousand years been 
studying the deeds and words, opinions and projects of men and 
groups of men. Philologists, literary critics and scholars had been 
studying men's speech and writing, their poetry and drama, their 
religion and philosophy. Even dramatists and novelists, in depicting 
ways in which the creatures of their fancy acted and reacted, were 
showing in fable how they thought that real people do or might 
behave. Economists study the actual and hypothetical dealings and 
expectations of men in markets; strategists study the actual and 
possible perplexities and decisions of generals; teachers study the 
performances of their pupils ; detectives and chess-players study the 
manoeuvres, habits, weaknesses and strengths of their adversaries. 
But, according to the para-Newtonian programme, psychologists 
would study human beings in a completely different way. They 
would find and examine data inaccessible to teachers, detectives, 
biographers or friends; data, too, which could not be represented 
on the stage or in the pages of novels. These other studies of man 
were restricted to the inspection of the mere tents and houses in 
which the real men dwelt. The psychological study of man would 
use direct access to the residents themselves. Indeed, not until 
psychologists had found and turned the key, could the other students 
of human thought and behaviour hope to do more than batter 
vainly on locked doors. The visible deeds and the audible words 
of human beings were not themselves exercises of the qualities of 
their characters or intellects, but only external symptoms or expres- 
sions of their real but privy exercises. 

Abandonment of the two-worlds legend involves the abandon- 
ment of the idea that there is a locked door and a still to be 
discovered key. Those human actions and reactions, those spoken 
and unspoken utterances, those tones of voice, facial expressions 
and gestures, which have always* been the data of all the other 
students of men, have, after all, been the right and the 
only manifestations to study. They and they alone have 


merited, but fortunately not received, the grandiose title 'mental 

But though the official programme of psychology promised 
that the subject matter of its investigations would consist of 
happenings differing in kind from, and lying 'behind', those bits of 
human conduct which alone were accessible to the other studies of 
man, the experimental psychologists in their daily practice had 
perforce to break this promise. A researcher's day cannot be 
satisfactorily occupied in observing nonentities and describing the 
mythical. Practising psychologists found themselves examining the 
actions, grimaces and utterances of lunatics and idiots, of persons 
under the influence of alcohol, fatigue, terror and hypnosis, and of 
the victims of brain injuries. They studied sense perception as 
ophthalmologists, for example, study sense perception, partly by 
making and applying physiological experiments and partly by 
analysing the reactions and verbal responses of the subjects of their 
experiments. They studied the wits of children by collecting and 
comparing their failures and successes in various kinds of stan- 
dardised tests. They counted the blunders made by typists at different 
stages of their day's work, and they examined people's differing 
liabilities to forget different kinds of memorised syllables and 
phrases by recording their successes and failures in recitations after 
the lapse of different periods of time. They studied the behaviour 
of animals in mazes and of chickens in incubators. Even the spell- 
binding, because so promisingly 'chemical', principle of the 
Association of Ideas found its chief practical application in the 
prompt word-responses voiced aloud by subjects to whom test 
words were spoken by the experimenter. 

There is nothing peculiar in such a disparity between programme 
and performance. We ought to expect wisdom about questions and 
methods to come after the event. The descriptions given by 
philosophers of their own objectives and their own procedures 
have seldom squared with their actual results or their actual manners 
of working. They have promised, for example, to give an account 
of the World as a Whole, and to arrive at this account by some 
process of synoptic contemplation. In fact they have practised a 
highly proprietary brand of haggling, and their results, though much 
more valuable than the promised Darien-panorama could have 
been, have not been in any obvious respects like such a panorama. 


Chemists once tried hard to find out the properties of phlogiston, 
but, as they never captured any phlogiston, they reconciled them- 
selves to studying instead its influences and outward manifestations. 
They examined, in fact, the phenomena of combustion and soon 
abandoned the postulate of an uninspectable heat-stuff. The 
postulation of it had been a will-o'-the-wisp, the sort of will-o'-the- 
wisp that encourages the adventurous to explore uncharted thickets 
and then, ungratefully, to chart the thickets in maps that make no 
further mention of those false beacons. Psychological research 
work will not have been wasted, if the postulate of a special mind- 
stuff goes the same way. 

However, the question 'What should be the programme of 
psychology?' has still to be answered. Attempts to answer it would 
now be faced by the following difficulty. I have argued that the 
workings of men's minds are studied from the same sorts of data 
by practising psychologists and by economists, criminologists, 
anthropologists, political scientists and sociologists, by teachers, 
examiners, detectives, biographers, historians and players of games, 
by strategists, statesmen, employers, confessors, parents, lovers and 
novelists. How then are certain inquiries to be selected, while all 
the rest are to be rejected, as 'psychological' ? By what criteria are 
we to say that the statistical results of Schools Examination Boards 
are not, while the results of intelligence tests are, the products of 
psychological investigations? Why is the historian's examination of 
Napoleon's motives, intentions, talents and stupidities not, when that 
of Sally Beauchamp's is, a psychological study? If we give up the 
idea that psychology is about something that the other human 
studies are not about, and if we give up, therewith, the idea that 
psychologists work on data from which the other studies are 
debarred, what is the differentia between psychology and these 
other studies? 

Part of the answer might be given thus. The country postman 
knows a district like the back of his hand; he knows all the roads, 
lanes, streams, hills and coppices; he can find his way about it in all 
weathers, lights and seasons. Yet he is not a geographer. He cannot 
construct a map of the district, or tell how it links on to adjoining 
districts; he does not know the exact compass-bearings, distances 
or heights above sea-level of any of the places that, in another way, 
he knows so well. He has no classification of the types of terrain 


that his district contains, and he can make no inferences from its 
features to features of neighbouring districts. In discussing the 
district he mentions all the features that the geographer might 
mention, but he does not say the same sorts of things about them. 
He applies no geographical generalisations, uses no geographical 
methods of mensuration, and employs no general explanatory or 
predictive theories. Similarly, it might be suggested, the detective, 
the confessor, the examiner and the novelist may be thoroughly 
conversant, in a rule of thumb way, with the kinds of data which the 
psychologist would collect, but their handling of them would be 
unscientific, where the psychologist's handling of them would be 
scientific. Theirs would correspond to the shepherd's weather-lore; 
his to the meteorologist's science. 

But this answer would not establish any difference between 
psychology and the other scientific or would-be scientific studies 
of human behaviour, like economics, sociology, anthropology, 
criminology and philology. Even public librarians study popular 
tastes by statistical methods, yet, though tastes in books are 
indubitably characteristics of minds, this sort of study of them would 
not be allowed to rank as psychology. 

The right answer to the question seems to be that the abandon- 
ment of the dream of psychology as a counterpart to Newtonian 
science, as this was piously misrepresented, involves abandonment 
of the notion that 'psychology' is the name of a unitary inquiry 
or tree of inquiries. Much as 'Medicine' is the name of a somewhat 
arbitrary consortium of more or less loosely connected inquiries 
and techniques, a consortium which neither has, nor needs, alogically 
trim statement of programme, so 'psychology' can quite conveni- 
ently be used to denote a partly fortuitous federation of inquiries and 
techniques. After all, not only was the dream of a para-Newtonian 
science derived from a myth, but it was also an empty dream that 
there was or would be one unitary, because Newtonian, science of the 
'external world'. The erroneous doctrine that there was a segregated 
field of 'mental phenomena' was based on a principle which also 
implied that there was no room for the biological sciences. 
Newtonian physics was proclaimed as the all-embracing science of 
what exists in space. The Cartesian picture left no place for Mendel 
or Darwin. The two-worlds legend was also a two-sciences legend, 
and the recognition that there are many sciences should remove the 


sting from the suggestion that 'psychology' is not the name of a 
single homogeneous theory. Few of the names of sciences do denote 
such unitary theories, or show any promise of doing so. Nor is 
'cards' the name either of a single game, or of a 'tree' of games. 

The analogy suggested above between psychology and medicine 
was misleading in one important respect, namely that several of the 
most progressive and useful psychological researches have them- 
selves been in a broad sense of the adjective, medical researches. 
Among others, and above all others, the researches of psychology's 
one man of genius, Freud, must not be classed as belonging to a 
family of inquiries analogous to the family of medical inquiries; 
they belong to this family. Indeed, so deservedly profound has 
been the influence of Freud's teaching and so damagingly popular 
have its allegories become, that there is now evident a strong 
tendency to use the word 'psychologists' as if it stood only for those 
who investigate and treat mental disabilities. 'Mental' is commonly 
used, from the same motives, to mean 'mentally disordered'. 
Perhaps it would have been a terminological convenience, had 
the word 'psychology' been originally given this restricted sense; 
but the academic world is now too well accustomed to the more 
hospitable and undiscriminating use of the word to make such a 
reform possible or desirable. 

Probably some people will be inclined to protest that there 
does exist some general and formidable distinction between psycho- 
logical inquiries and all the other inquiries that are concerned with 
the wits and characters of human beings. Even if psychologists 
enjoy no proprietary data on which to found their theories, still 
their theories themselves are different in kind from those of 
philologists, camouflage-experts, anthropologists or detectives. 
Psychological theories provide, or will provide, causal explanations 
of human conduct. Granted that there are hosts of different ways 
in which the workings of men's minds are studied, psychology 
differs from all the other studies in trying to find out the causes 
of these workings. 

The word 'cause' and the phrase 'causal explanation' are, of 
course, very solemn expressions. They remind us at once of tliDse 
unheard impacts of those little invisible billiard-balls which we 
learned to fancy, erroneously, were the truly scientific explanation 
of everything that goes on in the world. So when we hear the 


promise of a new scientific explanation of what we say and do, we 
expect to hear of some counterparts to these impacts, some forces or 
agencies of which we should never ourselves have dreamed and 
which we shall certainly never witness at their subterranean work. 
But when we are in a less impressionable frame of mind, we 
find something unplausible in the promise of discoveries yet to 
be made of the hidden causes of our own actions and reactions. We 
know quite well what caused the farmer to return from the market 
with his pigs unsold. He found that the prices were lower than he 
had expected. We know quite well why John Doe scowled and 
slammed the door. He had been insulted. We know quite well 
why the heroine took one of her morning letters to read in solitude, 
for the novelist gives us the required causal explanation. The 
heroine recognised her lover's handwriting on the envelope. The 
schoolboy knows quite well what made him write down the 
answer '225' when asked for the square of 15. Each of the operations 
he performed had put him on the track to its successor. 

There are, as will be seen in a moment, a lot of other sorts of 
actions, fidgets and utterances, the author of which cannot say what 
made him produce them. But the actions and reactions which their 
authors can explain are not in need of an ulterior and disparate kind 
of explanation. Where their causes are well known to the agent 
and to all of his acquaintances, the promise of surprising news about 
their real but hidden causes is not merely like the promise, but is a 
special case of the promise of news about the occult causes of 
mechanical happenings whose ordinary causes are notorious. The 
cyclist knows what makes the back wheel of his cycle go round, 
namely, pressure on the pedals communicated by the tension of the 
chain. The questions, 'What makes the pressure on the pedals make 
the chain taut ?' and, 'What makes the tautening of the chain make the 
back wheel go round?' would strike him as unreal questions. So 
would the question, 'What makes him try to make the back wheel go 
round by pressing on the pedals ?' 

In this everyday sense in which we can all give 'causal explana- 
tions' for many of our actions and reactions, mention of these causes 
is not the perquisite of psychologists. The economist, in talking 
of 'sellers' strikes', is talking in general terms about such 
episodes as that of the farmer taking his pigs back to the farm 
because he found that the prices were too low. The literary critic, 


in discussing why the poet used a new rhythm in a particular line 
of his verse, is considering what composition worry was affecting 
the poet at that particular juncture. Nor does the teacher want to 
hear about any back-stage incidents, in order to understand what 
made the boy get to the correct answer of his multiplication 
problem; for he has himself witnessed the front-stage incidents 
which got him there. 

On the other hand, there are plenty of kinds of behaviour 
of which we can give no such explanations. I do not know why I 
was so tongue-tied in the presence of a certain acquaintance; why I 
dreamed a certain dream last night ; why I suddenly saw in my mind's 
eye an uninteresting street corner of a town that I hardly know; 
why I chatter more rapidly after the air-raid siren is heard; or how 
I came to address a friend by the wrong Christian name. We 
recognise that questions of these kinds are genuine psychological 
questions. I should, very likely, not even know why gardening is 
unusually attractive when a piece of disagreeable letter-writing 
awaits me in my study, if I had not learned a modicum of psychology. 
The question why the farmer will not sell his pigs at certain prices 
is not a psychological but an economic question; but the question 
why he will not sell his pigs at any price to a customer with a certain 
look in his eye might be a psychological question. Even in the field 
of sense perception and memory the corresponding thing seems to 
hold. We cannot, from our own knowledge, tell why a straight 
line cutting through certain cross-hatchings looks bent, or why 
conversations in foreign languages seem to be spoken much more 
rapidly than conversations in our own, and we recognise these for 
psychological questions. Yet we feel that the wrong sort of promise 
is being made when we are offered corresponding psychological 
explanations of our correct estimations of shape, size, illumination 
and speed. Let the psychologist tell us why we are deceived; but 
we can tell ourselves and him why we are not deceived. 

The classification and diagnosis of exhibitions of our mental 
impotences require specialised research methods. The explanation 
of the exhibitions of our mental competences often requires nothing 
but ordinary good sense, or it may require the specialised methods 
of economists, scholars, strategists and examiners. But their explana- 
tions are not cheques drawn on the accounts of some yet more funda- 
mental diagnoses. So not all, or even most, causal explanations of 


human actions and reactions are to be ranked as psychological. But, 
furthermore, not all psychological researches are searches for causal 
explanations. Many psychologists are occupied, with greater or less 
profit, in devising methods of mensuration and in making collections 
of the measurements so achieved. Certainly the hope is that their 
measurements will one day subserve the establishment of precise 
functional correlations or causal laws, but their own work is at 
best only preparatory to this ulterior task. So, as it must be styled 
'psychological research', 'psychological research* cannot be defined 
as the search for causal explanations. 

It will now be realised why I have said so little about psychology 
in the body of this book. Part of the purpose of the book has 
been to argue against the false notion that psychology is the sole 
empirical study of people's mental powers, propensities and 
performances, together with its implied false corollary that 'the 
mind' is what is properly describable only in the technical terms 
proprietary to psychological research. England cannot be described 
solely in seismological terms. 

(2) Behaviourism. 

The general trend of this book will undoubtedly, and harmlessly 
be stigmatised as 'behaviourist*. So it is pertinent to say something 
about Behaviourism. Behaviourism was, in the beginning, a theory 
about the proper methods of scientific psychology. It held that the 
example of the other progressive sciences ought to be followed, 
as it had not previously been followed, by psychologists; their 
theories should be based upon rcpeatable and publicly checkable 
observations and experiments. But the reputed deliverances of 
consciousness and introspection are not publicly checkable. Only 
people's overt behaviour can be observed by several witnesses, 
measured and mechanically recorded. The early adherents of this 
methodological programme seem to have been in two minds 
whether to assert that the data of consciousness and introspection 
were myths, or to assert merely that they were insusceptible of 
scientific examination. It was not clear whether they were espousing 
a not very sophisticated mechanistic doctrine, like that of Hobbes 
and Gassendi, or whether they* were still cleaving to the Cartesian 
para-mechanical theory, but restricting their research procedures 
to those that we have inherited from Galileo; whether, for example, 


they held that thinking just consists in making certain complex 
noises and movements or whether they held that though these 
movements and noises were connected with 'inner life' processes, 
the movements and noises alone were laboratory phenomena. 

However it does not matter whether the early Behaviourists 
accepted a mechanist or a para-mechanist theory. They were in 
error in either case. The important thing is that the practice of 
describing specifically human doings according to the recom- 
mended methodology quickly made it apparent to psychologists 
how shadowy were the supposed 'inner-life' occurrences which the 
Behaviourists were at first reproached for ignoring or denying. 
Psychological theories which made no mention of the deliverances 
of 'inner perception' were at first likened to 'Hamlet' without the 
Prince of Denmark. But the extruded hero soon came to seem so 
bloodless and spineless a being that even the opponents of these 
theories began to feel shy of imposing heavy theoretical burdens 
upon his spectral shoulders. 

Novelists, dramatists and biographers had always been satisfied 
to exhibit people's motives, thoughts, perturbations and habits by 
describing their doings, sayings, and imaginings, their grimaces, 
gestures and tones of voice. In concentrating on what Jane Austen 
concentrated on, psychologists began to find that these were, after 
all, the stuff and not the mere trappings of their subjects. They have, 
of course, continued to suffer unnecessary qualms of anxiety, lest 
this diversion of psychology from the task of describing the ghostly 
might not commit it to tasks of describing the merely mechanical. 
But the influence of the bogy of mechanism has for a century been 
dwindling because, among other reasons, during this period the 
biological sciences have established their title of 'sciences'. The 
Newtonian system is no longer the sole paradigm of natural science. 
Man need not be degraded to a machine by being denied to be a 
ghost in a machine. He might, after all, be a sort of animal, namely, 
a higher mammal. There has yet to be ventured the hazardous 
leap to the hypothesis that perhaps he is a man. 

The Behaviourists' methodological programme has been of 
revolutionary importance to the programme of psychology. But 
more, it has been one of the main sources of the philosophical 
suspicion that the two-worlds story is a myth. It is a matter of 
relatively slight importance that the champions of this methodo- 


logical principle have tended to espouse as well a kind of Hobbist 
theory, and even to imagine that the truth of mechanism is entailed 
by the truth of their theory of scientific research method in 

It is not for me to say to what extent the concrete research 
procedures of practising psychologists have been affected by their 
long adherence to the two-worlds story, or to what extent the 
Behaviourist revolt has led to modifications of their methods. For 
all that I know, the ill effects of the myth may, on balance, have 
been outweighed by the good, and the Behaviourist revolt against 
it may have led to reforms more nominal than real. Myths are 
not always detrimental to the progress of theories. Indeed, in their 
youth they are often of inestimable value. Pioneers are, at the start, 
fortified by the dream that the New World is, behind its alien 
appearances, a sort of duplicate of the Old World, and the child is not 
so much baffled by a strange house if, wherever they may actually 
lead him, its bannisters feel to his hand like those he knew at home. 

But it has not been a part of the object of this book to advance 
the methodology of psychology or to canvass the special hypotheses 
of this or that science. Its object has been to show that the two -worlds 
story is a philosophers' myth, though not a fable, and, by showing 
this, to begin to repair the damage that this myth has for some time 
been doing inside philosophy. I have tried to establish this point, 
not by adducing evidence from the troubles of psychologists, but by 
arguing that the cardinal mental concepts have been credited by 
philosophers themselves with the wrong sorts of logical behaviour. 
If my arguments have any force, then these concepts have been 
misallocated in the same general way, though in opposing particular 
ways, by both mechanists and para-mechanists, by Hobbes and 
by Descartes. 

If, in conclusion, we try to compare the theoretical fruitfulness 
of the Hobbes-Gassendi story of the mind with that of the 
Cartesians, we must undoubtedly grant that the Cartesian story 
has been the more productive. We might describe their opposition 
in this picture. One company of a country's defenders instals itself 
in a fortress. The soldiers of the second company notice that the 
moat is dry, the gates are missing and the walls are in collapse. 
Scorning the protection of such a rickety fort, yet still ridden by 
the idea that only from forts like this can the country be defended, 


they take up their stand in the most fort-like thing they can see, 
namely, the shadow of the decrepit fort. Neither position is 
defensible; and obviously the shadow-stronghold has all the 
vulnerability of the stone fort, with some extra vulnerabilities of 
its own. Yet in one respect the occupants of the shadow-fort have 
shown themselves the better soldiers, since they have seen the 
weaknesses of the stone fort, even if they are silly to fancy themselves 
secure in a fort made of no stones at all. The omens are not good 
for their victory, but they have given some evidence of teachability. 
They have exercised some vicarious strategic sense; they have 
realised that a stone fort whose walls are broken is not a stronghold. 
That the shadow of such a fort is not a stronghold either is the next 
lesson that they may come to learn. 

We may apply this picture to one of our own central issues. 
Thinking, on the one view, is identical with saying. The holders 
of the rival view rightly reject this identification, but they make 
this rejection, naturally but wrongly, in the form that saying is 
doing one thing and thinking is doing another. Thinking operations 
are numerically different from verbal operations, and they control 
these verbal operations from another place than the place in which 
these verbal operations occur. This, however, will not do either, 
and for the very same reasons as those which showed the 
vulnerability of the identification of thinking with mere saying. 
Just as undisciplined and heedless saying is not thinking but 
babbling, so, whatever shadow-operations may be postulated as 
occurring in the other place, these too might go on there in an 
undisciplined and heedless manner; and then they in their turn 
would not be thinking. But to offer even an erroneous description 
of what distinguishes heedless and undisciplined chattering from 
thinking is to recognise a cardinal distinction. The Cartesian myth 
does indeed repair the defects of the Hobbist myth only by dupli- 
cating it. But even doctrinal homeopathy involves the recognition 
of disorders. 



A Competences and liabilities, 70, 79, 

., 111,130-3 

Abstract terms, 120, 227, 293-4, 307-8 Conscience 159 315 

Achievements and Achievement words, Consciousness, 1*2, 14, 83, 136, 154 ff., 

130-1, 149-53, 222-3, 238, 278, 301- ^ 2 ^ anj xe Heeding 

3 4 Conversing, see Unstudied Talk. 

Actions, 33, 65 ff. f 74, 89 'Could/ see Modal Sentences. 

Automatic, no 

Causes of, 90, 113-14, 325 D 

Voluntary and involuntary, 67, 

69 Descartes' Myth, 8, n ff, 33, 158, 201, 

Agitations and Agitation words, 83, 3 2 9^ 

93, 95, 97-8, 104, 107-8, 166, 180 See 'Ghost in the Machine/ 

See Moods, Motives, Feelings. Determinate words, 44-5, 96, 118-19, 

Appraisals, 66-9, 73, 75, 80, 180 256-7 

Argument, 47, 123, 299-304 Didactic Talk, see Teaching, Proposi- 

Aristotle, 30, 48, 65, 112, 149 tions > Intellect, Theorizing, Studied 

Attending, 164, and see Heeding. Talk. 

Avowals, 102, 183-4 Dispositions and Disposition words, 33, 

42, 43 ff, 51, 56, 71, 73, 85-6, 88, 

B 91, 95, 112, 116 ff. 

Generic and specific, 118 

Bearing in mind, see Serial Perform- Disposition sentences, 117-25 

ances, and Remembering. Logic of, 117 ff, 138-9 

'Because/ see Explanation. Not fact-reporting, 117-20, 123- 

Behaviourism, 32, 84, 327-30 125 

Believing, 28, 133-5 Not deduced from laws, 124 

Biology, 117, 323 

Bodies, see Physical World. E 

Emotions, 83-4, 95, 104, 114 
Enjoying, 107-9, 132 

'Can/ see Modal Sentences. Episodes, see Occurrences. 

Care, see Heeding. Epistemological words, 185, 203, 265, 

Category, 8, 22 284, 292-309 

Category-mistake, 16 ff, 33, 77-9, 94, Epistemology, 317 

152, 168, 206 Ethical sentences, 128, 315 

Causal Connexion, 122-3 Exercises, 33, 51, 54~5, 60, 70, 86, 97, 

See Law Sentences. 104 

Chatting, see Unstudied Talk. See Dispositions. 

Choice, 68 Expecting, 226 ff, and see Serial Per- 

Cognition, 26, 62, 258 formances. 


332 INDEX 

Explanation, 50, 77-8, 88-9, 113-14* and hearing, 246, 270 

134-5, 142-3, 324~5 'Seeing/ 35, 37, 234, 246 ff, 265-6, 

F and seeing, 246, 253-6 

Faculties, 23, 63, 119, 152, 238, 278, 

' ' . . Impressions, see Sensations. 

Fancy, see Imagining. T r , ' , . 

T, i- oo Impulses, 86, 114, 243, and see Motives 

Feelings, 83-8, 101-9, 201, 240-1 T \. .' I'. . 

T3 1- j A Inclinations, see Motives. 

Feelings and Agitations, 104-7 T c /r i r r 

, , . . & Inference, 299 ff, and see Law Sen- 
Formal logic, 306 yy 
T- -11 rc tences. 

Free-will, 20, 71, 75 ft., 196-7 <T , (T , , <T , , _ 

See Actions Inner Internal, Inward,' etc., 12 ff.. 

Freud, 14, 157, 324 35 ff., 75, 198, 245, 269 

Intellect, 26, 32, 49, 126, 280 ft. 

c Primacy of the, 26, 314-8 

Intelligence and Intelligence words, 

Gassendi, 327, 329 25 ff, 27-8, 40, 42-50, 71, 265 

'Ghost in the Machine/ 15 ff, 20, 22, Intelligent (Unintelligent) be- 

27* 32, 35> 50, 52, 56, 60, 63, 83, 114, haviour, 21, 30, 32, 51, in, 

155, 161, 224, 318 126, 144-9, 176-7, 261-2 

See Descartes' Myth. Maxims, 29-31 

'Got it' words, see Achievements. Use of rules, 46 

Introspection, 12-15, 58, 66, 72, 154, 

H 163 ff. 

Habits, 8, 42, 45-7, 89, 91, no, 132, 

134, 146 J 

and motives, no James, William, 84 

'Head, In the/ 27, 35 ff. 

Heeding and Heed words, 91, in, 132, K 

135 ff, 151, 157-8, 206, 223, 226, 297 

Logic of, 138 ff. Kant, 318 

Involves trying, 143-5 Knowing, 226-8 

Involves readiness, 147-8 how > 2 7 ff-. 40 ff , 54, 59, 70, 265, 

History, 56 2(5 9 

Hobbes, 327, 329 that 2 7 ff - J 34~5, 152, 161 

Hume, 94, 166, 186, 249, 271, 318 Disposition word, 44, 46, 56, 123, 

Hutcheson, 94 J 33 

Capacity verb, 133-4 

j See Theories, Thinking. 

Images, Imagery, Imaging, see Imagin- ^ 


Imagining, 35-40, 246, 252, 256 ff, 270 L^w sentences and law-like sentences, 

and pretending, 264 43~6, 7* 85, 89, 90, 97, 113, 117, 

Special status pictures, 248-55 120 ff, 142, 167, 170 

'Hearing/ 36, 246 ff, 265, 267-270 Inference licences, 121-7, 142, 306 



Law, Open hypotheticals, 120-1, 142 

See Mongrel-categoricals. 
Learning, 42, 49, 56, 59, 60, 129, 146-8, 

231,232,272,284, 306 
and didactic discourse, 284-7, 309- 


Liabilities, see Competences. 
Locke, 159, 318 


Matter, see Physical World, etc. 
Mechanism, 75 ff., 328 
Memory, see Remembering 
'Mental/ 34, 199, 245, 280, 324 
Mental conduct words, 7, 15-16, 19, 

21, 25-6, 62 

Mental operations, 7-8, 15, 22, 48, 61, 
63 ff, 67, 81, 90-1, 105, 244 

Connexion with physical events, 

12, 19, 58, 63 ff, 81, 90-1, 105, 
135, 168, 222-3, 231-2, 240 

Unconscious, 14, 157, 162 

Mind, 36, 40, 46, 51, i68ff, 199-200 

and body, 22-3, 52, 63-4, 84, 105, 

168-9, 189, 199-200, 242 

Observation, Perception recipes, 218- 

19, 228-34 

Problems of perception, 208, 224 

Occurrences and Occurrence words, 15, 

46-7, 83,85, 117-18, 135, H2, 149 ff 
Optical metaphors, 136-7, 159-62, 174, 

i?8, 303-5 

Other minds, 14, 21, 51 ff, 61, 66, 90, 
114, 155, 169, 179 ff 205 see Solipsism. 

Pain, 102, 105, 108, 203, 244 
Para-mechanical hypotheses, 19-23, 64, 
68, 114, 117, 186, 222, 243, 251, 272, 

291-5, 323, 327 
Para-political myth, 23 
Perception, see Observation. 
Phenomenalism , 2 3 4-40 
Physical world, etc., 11 ff, 76 ff, 198, 


Pleasure, 5ee Enjoying. 
Preparation, see Teaching. 
Pretending, 102, 133, 172, 181, 191, 256- 

64, 267, 270-1 
-Higher order activity, 259-64 

Minding, see Heed. 

'Mind's Eye, in the/ see Imagining and Privileged access, 11-14, 25 ff , 33-4, 

'Head, in the/ 
Misunderstanding, 51-61 
Modal sentences, 126 ff. 
'Can/ 'could/ 'would/ etc., 46, 71, 

119, 120, 126-31, 202, 220, 26l 

* Would/ 93, 141-2 

Compared with hypotheticals, 

127-8, 140 
'Mongrel-categoricals/ 47-8, 123 ff, 

138-41, 145, 217, 229 
Moods and Mood words, 83, 93, 95~6, 

97-8, 100 ff , 109, 244 
Motives and Motive words, 81-95, 

98-99, 104, 106, noff, 133-4, i?i 
Second-order inclinations, 112-13 

O > 

Observation and Observation words, 
151, 199 ff, 201-4, 207, 214, 222 

45, 5*. 54, 57, 61, 66, 83, 115, 119, 
154, 163, 165, 167, 179, 181, 207, 209, 
211, 216, 219, 247 ff, 293-5, 304-5 
See 'Ghost in the Machine.' 

Propositions, 185, 311 

Psychology, 22, 53-4, 7<5, l6 5, 242, 

319 ff 
Programme of, 322 

-Two worlds myth of, 319-22 


Readiness, see Heeding and Prepara- 

Reason, 47, 280-1, 284, 288, 315 
Remembering, 178, 288, 272 ff 

Not a source of knowledge, 274-6 

and recalling, 272-3 

Retrospection, 159-60, 166-7 



Secondary qualities, 219-20 

Seeing (jokes, implications, etc.), 303 ff. 

Self-consciousness, 12, 157 ff., 184, 194, 

Self-knowledge, 167 ff. 

Higher order acts, 191-8, 261-2 

Systematic elusiveness of 'I,' 186 ff, 

Personal pronouns: index words, 

187-90, 198 

Semi-dispositional words, 46 ff 
Sensa, see Sensible Objects and Sense 

Datum Theory. 

Sensation, 84, 105-6, 109, 199 ff. 
Ordinary and sophisticated usage, 

200-1, 240-2 
'Neat' sensation words, 201, 203, 

206, 210, 225, 235, 240 

Sensations and objects, 201-3, 219 

Having sensations, 200, 204, 206, 

209, 214, 218, 222, 232 
Sense Datum Theory, 210-22, 255 

Argument from illusions, 213, 


'Sensible objects,' 214, 216, 221, 236-7 
Serial performances, 175 ff 
Shamming, see Pretending. 
Skills, 33, 42, 45, 60, 133 
Solipsism, 60, 156 

Soul, Tripartite Theory of, 62, 100, 258 
Studied talk, 144, 182, 185, 283, 287, 

309, 3H 
See Learning. 
Successes, see Achievements. 

Talking, see Studied Talk, Unstudied 
Talk, Avowals, Chatting, Teaching. 

Tasks and task words, 28, 130, 149-52, 

176-7, 222, 237-8, 262 
Teaching, 49, 144, 147, 284, 287, 309 ff 
Tendencies, 131-3 
Theories, 286 ff. 

Theorizing, 26, 137, 147, 185, 263, 

291-2, 298 
Theory and practice, 26, 29 ff , 41, 


Having a theory, 286-90, 296, 317 

Theory building, 288-91, 294, 

305, 3i8 

Theory of knowledge, 317-18 
Thinking, 29, 32, 34, 40, 43, m, 143-4, 
185, 193, 226-8, 230, 263, 266, 282 ff. 
Ordinary and sophisticated usage, 

Thinking and talking, 27, 34, 47, 

184, 200, 282, 295-6, 309 ff 

Thinking and supposing, 263-4 

Judging and inferring, 239, 290- 

Trying, see Heeding. 


Understanding, 51-61, 148, 170- 
Unstudied talk, 181-5, 283, 314 and 
see Avowals. 

Volitions,' 63 ff , 72, 75 
Voluntary, 63, 69 ff 


Will, see Actions, Freewill, Volitions. 
'Would,' see Modal Sentences.